US President Donald Trump said China has asked to restart trade talks, hours after Beijing’s top negotiator publicly called for calm in response to a weekend of tit-for-tat tariff increases that sent global stocks plunging.
“China called last night our trade people and said let’s get back to the table,” Trump said on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. “They understand how life works.”
Trump said US officials received two “very productive” calls from the Chinese but declined to say whether he’d spoken directly to Xi. “They want to make a deal,” he said, adding: “We’re going to start very shortly and negotiate and see what happens but I think we’re going to make a deal.”
Asked by reporters about Trump’s remarks shortly after the American president spoke, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing, said that he wasn’t aware of any weekend US-China phone calls. He repeated China’s position that the trade war should be settled through negotiation.
S&P 500 futures reversed losses after Trump’s comments. Shares in Asia dropped on Monday in all major markets, led by Hong Kong’s 2.3% decline.
Earlier, China’s top trade negotiator, vice Premier Liu He, had used an appearance in China to call for a de-escalation in tensions.
“We are willing to solve the problem through consultation and cooperation with a calm attitude,” Liu said at the opening ceremony of 2019 Smart China Expo in Chongqing, Caixin reported on Monday. “We firmly oppose the escalation of the trade war,” he said, adding that it “is not conducive to China, the US and the interests of people all over the world”.
The world’s two largest economies traded further blows over the weekend, with Beijing’s retaliation on an earlier tariff increase by the US meeting yet another increase from Trump, who said that existing 25% tariffs on some US$250-billion in imports from China would rise to 30% come 1 October, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Economists are warning that a global recession could result from the spiral of trade measures.
China welcomes all foreign investors, including those from the US, Liu said, adding that policy makers will keep building a favourable environment and protecting property rights. He stressed that China has ample macro-policy tools to ensure the country’s economic fundamentals have “good momentum”.
Liu’s comments and a stronger-than-anticipated yuan fixing suggested that traders don’t need to worry about an immediate counter-punch from China after a tumultuous weekend. China on Friday threatened to impose more tariffs on $75-billion of American goods, prompting Trump to announce even higher tariffs on Chinese goods and call for American companies to pull out of Asia’s largest economy.
Liu spoke at an event focused on high-tech industries such as big data, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and 5G. He said China opposes technology blockades and protectionism, and is trying hard to maintain the completeness of supply chains. — (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP