China on US tariffs: We will not sit idly by

Beijing blames US export controls on high-tech products for trade surplus as tariffs loom

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: China blamed US export restrictions for its record trade surplus with the US but expressed hope that a solution can be found to settle trade issues between the world's two biggest economies as US tariffs loom.

Beijing was bracing for an announcement from US President Donald Trump on tariffs of as much as US$60 billion (S$80 billion) on Chinese goods that was scheduled to be announced early this morning.

The tariffs will be imposed under Section 301 of the 1974 US Trade Act, focusing on Chinese high-tech goods.

Mr Trump said Beijing has forced US companies to transfer their intellectual property to China as a cost of doing business there.

Washington is also pressing China to reduce its staggering US$375 billion trade surplus with the US by US$100 billion.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said it was unfair to throw around criticism about unfair trade if the US will not sell to China what it wants to buy, referring to US export controls on some high-tech products.

"How many soya beans should China buy that are equal to one Boeing aircraft? Or, if China buys a certain number of Boeing aircraft, should the US buy an equal number of C919s?" Ms Hua said, referring to China's new self-developed passenger jet.

China still hopes it can hold constructive talks with the US in a spirit of mutual respect to seek a win-win solution, she added.

US agricultural exports to China stood at US$19.6 billion last year, with soya bean shipments accounting for US$12.4 billion.

Chinese penalties on US soya beans will especially hurt Iowa, the state that backed Mr Trump in the presidential election and is home to US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad.

Some Americans believe China cannot find a substitute for US soya beans, but that is an "arrogant and naive" idea, China's state-run Global Times said in an editorial yesterday.

Boeing jets have also been often cited as a potential target by China, which has been developing the C919 as part of its civil aerospace ambitions.

"With regard to the Section 301 investigation, China has expressed its position on many occasions that we resolutely oppose this type of unilateral and protectionist action by the US," the Commerce Ministry said yesterday.

"China will not sit idly by while legitimate rights and interests are hurt. We must take all necessary measures to firmly defend our rights and interests."

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday the tariffs would target China's high-tech sector, and there could also be restrictions on Chinese investments in the US.

Other sectors such as apparel could also be hit. - REUTERS