Chinese minister's ambiguity about China-US trade relations triggers concerns over trade war

Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on Sunday tried to avoid giving a clear answer to the question of whether China would take retaliatory actions against the United States, after US President Donald Trump signed last week two proclamations that will impose a 25 percent levy on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum.

Speaking at a press conference held on the sidelines of the annual legislative meeting, Zhong said that the trade relations between China and the United States are an issue that "concerns not only Americans but also everyone attending the press conference", in response to a British reporter from Bloomberg who asked what Beijing would do to deal with the trade frictions with the United States.

However, Zhong did not give a direct answer to the reporter's question, heightening concerns that the trade tensions between the world's two largest economies would likely escalate.

The possibility of a trade war between China and the United States has been at the center of Western media organizations' coverage about the bilateral relations. A New York Times report recently expressed concerns that China would use import tariffs as a tool to deal with the United States, after the Chinese Ministry of Commerce in February announced that it would launch an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into imports of sorghum from the United States.

Facing Trump's trade offensive against China, Chinese government officials kept low-profile and were cautious when answering questions related to the trade relationship between the two nations.

On the sidelines of China's annual legislative meeting last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded to such a question by saying that "the Chinese side would take necessary and reasonable actions" if the United States starts a trade war.

At Sunday's press conference, Zhong stressed that there would be no winner in a trade war, which could only bring disaster to China, the United States and the global economy. "China neither wants a trade war nor launches a trade war. But we are capable of dealing with challenges to safeguard the interests of the country and people," said Zhong.

Admitting that the problems of trade balance, market access and security review are barriers to the two countries' trade relations, Zhong said that the United States overestimated its trade deficit with China and underestimated the importance of bilateral cooperation.

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