China says 'bully' United States started a trade war

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States has started a trade war and China will defend itself, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said on Thursday, urging the United States to “take the gun” of tariffs away to smooth the way for talks.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Vice Commerce Minister and Deputy China International Trade Representative Wang Shouwen attends a news conference in Beijing, China, April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Earlier on Thursday, President Donald Trump said the United States was in a nasty trade battle with China, but things would ultimately work out. Speaking after a regular two-yearly review of China’s trade policies at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Wang was sceptical.

“The measures taken are against the interests of China, they are against the interests of U.S. businesses, consumers, workers and farmers. They are hampering global economic growth. They are just a trade bully,” he told reporters in Geneva.

Trump has launched a barrage of “Section 301” trade tariffs, punishing what he says is China’s theft of intellectual property and unfair industrial policies.

The United States says most of its complaint lies outside the WTO rules, but it has launched a WTO dispute to formalise the part of the dispute that is covered by the Geneva rule book.

Asked if China was breaking WTO rules by imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods without first launching a formal legal dispute, Wang said China could not wait years for a ruling on the U.S. move and had acted “in line with the spirit of international law.”

“The United States started the war,” he said.

Wang said he had been under the impression that four rounds of high level talks in recent months between China and the United States had averted the trade war.

“Those talks produced progress, so much so that the U.S. government said they would put the trade war on hold, but all of a sudden an announcement was made to impose tariffs on imports from China.

“For any talk to be successful, one party needs to take the gun off the head of the other party,” he said. “If one side keeps chopping and changing all the time the talk will be pointless.”

Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Robin Pomeroy