China will respond firmly if the United States insists on escalating trade tensions, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
The statement followed in the wake of comments made Monday by US President Donald Trump that he would slap tariffs on an additional $300bn worth of Chinese goods if a deal to resolve trade tensions isn’t reached when G20 leaders gather in Osaka, Japan later this month.
Trump has repeatedly said he is getting ready to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at Japan’s G20 summit, but China has not confirmed it.
Trump said last week he would decide after the meeting of the leaders of the world’s largest economies whether to carry out a threat to impose additional punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.
On Monday, Trump told business news channel CNBC that he is ready to impose another round of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports if he cannot make progress in trade talks with Xi in Osaka.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang continued to refrain from confirming whether there would be a Xi-Trump meeting at the G20, saying information would be released once it was available to the ministry.
“China does not want to fight a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting a trade war,” he said, adding China’s door was open to talks based on equality.
“If the United States only wants to escalate trade frictions, we will resolutely respond and fight to the end.”
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday downplayed this month’s summit in Japan, saying it would not be “a place where anyone makes a definitive deal”.
“At the G20, at most it will be … some sort of agreement on a path forward, but certainly it’s not going to be a definite agreement,” Ross told CNBC in a television interview.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing rose sharply in May after the Trump administration accused China of having reneged on promises to make structural economic changes during months of trade talks.
The US is seeking sweeping changes, including an end to forced technology transfers and theft of US trade secrets. It also wants curbs on subsidies for Chinese state-owned enterprises and better access for US firms in Chinese markets.
On May 10, Trump hiked tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods up to 25 percent and took steps to levy duties on an additional $300bn in Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated with tariff hikes on a revised list of $60bn in US goods.
The US government has also angered China by putting Huawei Technologies Co Ltd on a blacklist that effectively bans US companies from doing business with the Chinese firm, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker.
Investors worry China will retaliate by putting US companies on a blacklist or banning exports to the US of rare earth metals, which are used in products such as memory chips, rechargeable batteries and mobile phones.