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US wants big changes for trade talks; Beijing says 'take gun off our head'

Agencies/ 13 Jul 18 | 07:12 AM

The United States and China could reopen talks on trade but only if Beijing is willing to make significant changes, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday. Meanwhile, Beijing's Deputy Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said that the US should "take the gun off" China's head and start keeping its word in order to have useful talks on ending a trade war.     


"I would say to the extent that the Chinese want to make serious efforts to make structural changes, I and the administration are available any time to discuss those," Mnuchin said during a hearing before lawmakers in Washington.

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Pressed on the possible negative impact of multiple trade disputes on the US economy, Mnuchin said the Trump administration was keeping a watchful eye.

ALSO READ: Who has the last laugh in trade war? Chances are, not US companies


"We are monitoring very carefully the impact of tariffs and we will continue to do so," he said. 


'No trade talks unless US takes gun off China's head' 


On Thursday, Shouwen, representing China during the country's policy review at the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week, noted that the US "started the war" which has seen escalating threats to slap reciprocal tariffs on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars.


"We have had talks and those talks produced good progress but this progress was ignored by one party and that party went ahead with a trade war," Wang told reporters in Geneva.


Asked what conditions would be necessary for negotiations on easing the conflict, he said: "For any talk to be successful, one party needs to take the gun off the head of the other party."


"And for any talk to be useful, one party needs to be keeping its words. If one side keeps chopping and changing all the time the talk would be pointless," he added.

ALSO READ: Trade war: China may be moving gradually towards selective retaliation


So far, the two powers have only imposed tariffs on $34 billion (29 billion euros) worth of each other's goods.


But Washington on Tuesday threatened to target an additional $200 billion in imports and China immediately vowed to retaliate. On Wednesday, China said it would hit back after Washington escalated their trade dispute. 

ALSO READ: Donald Trump escalates China trade war with tariffs on $200-bn imports


Senior members of President Donald Trump's Republican party have condemned the spiralling trade row and called for face-to-face talks with Beijing. 


Wang called the US a "trade bully" and said Trump's conduct was "against the interest of the US businesses, the US consumers (and) US workers". Among Washington's many grievances regarding Chinese trade are charges that the WTO treats China too kindly. 


Trump's administration insists the 164-member body allows China to claim benefits that should be only reserved for the world's poorest nations and fails to punish its other misconduct.


The US envoy to the WTO, Dennis Shea, on Wednesday said it was time for a "reckoning" over China's membership and that without sweeping reform the WTO will prove unable to contain China and ultimately become irrelevant. 


Wang countered on Thursday that China was open to WTO reform, but mocked Shea's "alarmist point of view". 


"WTO is not perfect. There might be areas in which there is need for improvement, but I think the statement that says WTO (rules) are insufficient to deal with problems from China is a statement of exaggeration," Wang said.


"If there is need for improvement of the rules, China is happy to discuss with all other WTO members," he added. 

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