Beijing (PTI): China on Tuesday said its top trade negotiator will take part in talks in Washington this week, removing the uncertainty over the fate of crucial negotiations on tariffs after US President Donald Trump's threat to impose stiff duties on imported Chinese products worth over USD 200 billion.
China's Ministry of Commerce announced here that Vice-Premier Liu will visit the US on May 9-10 for the 11th round of trade talks at the invitation of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Liu is also a member of the Politburo of the ruling Communist Party of China Central Committee and chief of the Chinese side of the China-US comprehensive economic dialogue.
Media reports earlier speculated that China may not send Liu for the talks that were initially scheduled to be held on Wednesday after Trump in a series of tweets on Sunday said the US has been losing USD 500 billion per year on trade with China and he will no longer allow that to happen.
"The 10 per cent will go up to 25 per cent on Friday. 325 billions dollars of additional goods sent to us by China remain untaxed, but will be shortly, at a rate of 25 per cent," he said, adding the tariffs paid to the US have had little impact on product cost, mostly borne by China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday refuted US criticism that China has gone back on commitments made in the previous rounds of talks.
Mutual respect and mutual benefit is the precondition for us to reach a treaty. Raising tariffs cannot resolve any problem. I have to clarify that negotiation itself is a process of discussion," he said.
"It is natural for the two sides to have differences. We will not sidestep contradictions but we are sincere about continuing the consultations, Geng said.
Reacting to criticism that China is changing its position on the negotiations in view of Trumps' threats to impose tariffs, he said, we have seen that many times before.
China's position is clear cut and the US also knows that well. Hope the US will join efforts with China to meet each other half way on the basis of mutual trust to resolve each other's concerns to reach a mutually beneficial treaty, he said.
Asked whether this meant that China is not taking Trump's threat seriously, he said, I believe you are very clear about China's position and the US government also know that very well.
He declined to comment whether China would retaliate if Trump goes ahead with his threat to raise tariffs.
We have so many precedents before, our position is very clear. I believe the US side knows very well, he said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese media reacted sharply to the US' threat of imposing stiff tariffs on imports of Chinese products which is seen as a step taken after Beijing vetoed America's demand for additional concessions.
A commentary published by the Communist Party's official newspaper the People's Daily on Tuesday warned the US to not even think about concessions.
Things that are unfavourable to us, no matter how you ask, we will not take any step back. Do not even think about it, it said.
On Monday, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping had vetoed a proposal to grant additional concessions to the US which prompted Trump to issue the threat.
Trump's threat of additional sanctions on Chinese imports revealed his impatience due to a lack of sufficient concessions from China as Xi vetoed additional concessions proposed by his negotiators, the Post quoted sources as saying.
"Xi told them (officials) 'I'll be responsible for all possible consequences," The Post quoted sources as saying.
Lu Xiang, an expert on China-US relations from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Trump was pursuing a strategy of putting maximum pressure on China.
"If China cancels the trip, Trump would blame China for the failure of the trade negotiations," he told the Post.
Trump is demanding China to reduce the USD 375 billion trade deficit. He also called for verifiable measures for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.
He has already increased the tariffs on over USD 250 billion Chinese exports to the US and threatened to extend tariffs on USD 200 billion Chinese imports to 25 per cent. China too slapped reciprocal tariffs on some US exports to the country.
Trump recently hinted that Xi could visit the US in June setting off speculation that both countries could work out a trade deal by next month.
Media reports suggest that the two sides are still discussing key issues on structural issues, such as the US accusation of unfair subsidies in China, a mechanism to verify compliance and what to do with the tariffs the two have already imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of each other's goods.