BEIJING: China will respond as necessary in the event of a trade war with the United States, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday, while warning that such a war would only harm all sides.
US President Donald Trump is expected to establish tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on imported aluminum this week, but the White House has said there could be a 30-day exemption for Mexico and Canada and some other countries based on national security.
Such a move aims to counter cheap imports, especially from China, that Trump says undermine US industry and jobs.
Trump’s administration has faced growing opposition to the tariffs from prominent congressional Republicans and business officials worried about their potential impact on the economy.
Trade tension with the United States has jumped to the top of the list of risks facing China this year, Zhou Hao, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum this week, and its latest data showed exports surging 44.5 per cent in February from a year earlier.
Wang, speaking on the sidelines of an annual meeting of China’s parliament, said China and the United States did not have to be rivals, and history showed that trade wars were not the correct way to resolve problems.
“Especially given today’s globalisation, choosing a trade war is a mistaken prescription. The outcome will only be harmful,” Wang said.
“China would have to make a justified and necessary response,” he said.
Wang said China had a long way to go on its path of modernisation, and that it “will not and need not displace the United States”.
Trump addressed trade with China in tweets on Wednesday, demanding that it lay out plans for reducing its trade surplus with the United States by $1 billion, which appeared to have been raised during a meeting with a top Chinese official last week.
“China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States,” Trump tweeted, without saying where the message had been conveyed.
In the tweet, Trump mistakenly referred to a deficit where China runs a surplus. It was also not clear if he meant that amount, which would only be about 0.27 per cent of the record $375.2 billion goods trade surplus China had with the United States last year.
Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies have risen since Trump took office in 2017, and although China only accounts for a small fraction of US steel imports, its massive industry expansion has helped produce a global glut of steel that has driven down prices.