China on Thursday issued a stern new warning that it will be forced to retaliate if the U.S. follows through on a threat to levy new import tariffs, beginning Sept. 1.
Gao Feng, a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry, told reporters the country would prefer if there was no new escalation in the trade war, but also stressed that the Chinese will not back down and are prepared to hit back.
Gao vowed that China will take “counter measures” in response to President Donald Trump’s plan to hit an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports with a 10% tariff.
Gao also refused to give any details on how China would retaliate.
“We are not afraid of fighting a trade war (and) when it is necessary, we will fight back,” Gao said in a press conference that was broadcast and translated by the Chinese government, “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard the interests of the country and the people.”
Trump has delayed plans to implement some of the new tariffs until Dec. 15.
Gao admitted that an escalation would harm China, but added that the country has “the resolve and confidence” to absorb the pain of new tariffs.
Trump also took an aggressive stance on China this week, declaring the U.S. was “winning” the trade war while also vowing to continue even if it caused more pain for U.S. businesses and farmers that depend on trade with the Chinese.
“Somebody had to do it,” Trump said Wednesday about his efforts to reduce the U.S. trade deficit as well as get China to stop appropriating U.S. intellectual property. “I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. So, I'm taking on China. I'm taking on China on trade. And you know what? We're winning.”
But it’s unclear if U.S. and Chinese negotiators will be meeting face-to-face for another round of talks any time soon.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan spoke on the phone with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week after Trump announced the plan to hit China with new tariffs.
Trump and White House officials have said they hope the Chinese negotiators will return to Washington in September for more in-depth talks, but Gao would not say Thursday if that will happen.
“I don’t have any ready answers and if we have an update, I’ll let you know immediately,” he told reporters.
China previously threatened to raise tariffs already in place on $60 billion worth of U.S. products — including farm commodities — when the U.S. first threatened in May to put a 25% tax on the remaining $300 million worth of Chinese products without a tariff.
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