AFPBEIJING (AFP-Jiji) — Beijing warned Sunday that it is ready to hit back at the United States if it harms China’s economic interests, fuelling fears of a trade war after President Donald Trump unveiled steel and aluminium tariffs.
Trump’s announcement on Thursday sparked a flurry of counter-threats from other nations but its main trade rival, China, had avoided any overt warnings of potential retaliation until now.
“China doesn’t want a trade war with the United States,” Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People’s Congress, told a news conference on Sunday, the eve of the rubber-stamp parliament’s annual session.
“But if the U.S. takes actions that hurt Chinese interests, China will not sit idly by and will take necessary measures.”
Zhang warned that “policies informed by misjudgement or wrong perceptions will hurt relations and bring consequences no side wants to see.”
Trump’s announcement came as President Xi Jinping’s top economic aide, Liu He, met with U.S. officials at the White House this week to discuss the fraught economic relationship.
During his visit, according to the official Xinhua news agency, Liu and his hosts “agreed that the two countries should settle their trade disputes by cooperation rather than confrontation.”
Since announcing plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium, Trump has shrugged off threats from other nations, boasting on Friday that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”
Slowing world growth
China has been the main target of Trump’s ire over the U.S. trade deficit since his presidential campaign, but its steel and aluminium exports to the United States are minimal.
While China is the world’s largest steel producer, it accounts for less than one percent of U.S. imports and sells only 10 percent of its wrought aluminium abroad.