Trump not worried about trade war with China: Mnuchin

WASHINGTON Despite threats of retaliation from China over US plans to impose tariffs on up to US$60 billion (S$78 billion) in Chinese goods, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said US President Donald Trump had no intention of backing down and was not worried about a trade war.

"We are going to proceed with our tariffs. We are working on that," Mr Mnuchin told Fox News Sunday.

"So, as President Trump said, we are not afraid of a trade war, but that is not our objective."

Mr Trump gave the Treasury Department 60 days to develop investment restrictions aimed at preventing Chinese-controlled companies and funds from acquiring US firms with sensitive technologies.


Mr Mnuchin said he believed the US could reach an agreement with China on some issues, but said the tariffs would not be put on hold "unless we have an acceptable agreement that the president signs off on".

China yesterday lashed out at US "economic intimidation".

"We keep saying the Chinese side is willing to negotiate with the US to properly manage divergences, on the basis of mutual respect and equal mutual benefits," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said.

"Our door is always open to dialogue and consultation."

While the two sides have traded barbs in public, US and Chinese officials have begun behind-the-scenes negotiations to improve US access to China's huge market, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

WSJ said the discussions - led by China's economic czar Liu He, Mr Mnuchin and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer - cover topics including manufacturing and financial services, citing sources .

Meanwhile, the US and South Korea agreed to revise a trade pact criticised by Mr Trump.

US vehicle manufacturers have won improved market access, while South Korean steelmakers were hit with quotas but have avoided hefty tariffs.

The planned changes in the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement were seen as limited, leaving South Korea's key passenger car exports untouched and helping soothe fears that Mr Trump's tough approach could start a trade war. - REUTERS, AFP