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To reach deal, US must roll back punitive tariffs on imports: China

BEIJING : Washington must roll back punitive tariffs on Chinese imports if the two sides reach a trade deal, China said yesterday, indicating Beijing is sticking to its position ahead of another possible Dec 15 duty increase.

The two sides are negotiating details of a "Phase 1" agreement announced by President Donald Trump in October.

Beijing said last month the US side agreed to roll back some tariffs, but Mr Trump dismissed that.

"China believes that if the two parties reach a 'Phase 1' agreement, tariffs should be reduced accordingly," said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng.

Mr Gao said negotiators are in "close communication" but he had no other details.

The two sides have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's imports in the fight over Beijing's technology ambitions and trade surplus.

That has disrupted global trade and threatens to chill economic growth.

Washington is due to raise tariffs on an additional US$160 billion (S$218 billion) of Chinese imports on Dec 15, including smartphones and toys.

That will extend penalties to almost everything the US buys from China.

Global financial markets tumbled this week after Mr Trump cast doubt on whether an agreement can be reached this year.

Details of the Oct 12 agreement have yet to be released. But it doesn't address basic disputes about trade, Chinese industrial subsidies and technology policy.

SCEPTICISM

Economists say a final settlement is unlikely this year. Some expressed scepticism the two sides can complete the "Phase 1" deal.

In a related development, China's envoy to the US warned of forces that were trying to drive a wedge between the two.

Ambassador Cui Tiankai, speaking at a dinner hosted by the US-China Business Council, said US-Chinese ties were at a critical crossroads due to trade frictions, but it was possible to return to a better path.

"At the same time, we must be alert that some destructive forces are taking advantage of the ongoing trade friction (through) extreme rhetoric such as 'decoupling,' the 'new Cold War,' and 'clash of civilisations'," Mr Cui said.

He urged US and Chinese companies keen to expand trade between the two countries to stand up against what he called efforts to "spread hostility and even create conflict between us," as well as "fake news" about the situations in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

China's troubled western region is home to a large Uighur Muslim minority whom some US officials have said are the victims of human rights abuses.

Mr Cui's comments came a day after Mr Trump said the interim trade agreement with China could be delayed until after the US presidential election in November next year, and amid US legislative moves to address the Uighur issue.

The US and China have been locked in a bitter trade war for 17 months.- AP, REUTERS

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