BEIJING -- A senior Chinese trade official called Saturday for a compromise between the United States and China that aims to make a trade deal easier to reach this spring
Wang Shouwen, China's vice minister of commerce for international trade negotiations, raised the possible compromise at a news conference Saturday morning in Beijing. He said China would be amenable to an agreement that gave each side an equal right to take trade actions against the other side.
"Any implementation mechanism must go in both directions, fair and equal," Wang said, using China's preferred term for an enforcement mechanism. He spoke at an annual news conference given by the Chinese Commerce Ministry's top officials, in conjunction with the 11-day session of the country's rubber-stamp legislature, the National People's Congress.
Over the past year, the most contentious issue in the countries' trade talks has been the U.S. demand for what it calls an enforcement provision, which President Donald Trump's administration says China must accept in exchange for any reduction in the extra tariffs Trump imposed last year on $250 billion in imports from China.
Under an enforcement mechanism, the United States could reimpose tariffs if it concluded that China had not gone through with whatever structural changes to its economy it agrees to make in the trade talks. In the past month, the administration also has pushed for a broader enforcement mechanism, which would include the right to reimpose tariffs for any category of goods in which imports from China surge.
Chinese officials have previously resisted the idea of an enforcement provision.
Wang did not address another aspect of the enforcement-mechanism question that has deeply divided the United States and China. While the Trump administration wants the right to reimpose tariffs unilaterally, China's Commerce Ministry has favored creating a lengthy process of bilateral consultations if either side has a grievance.
Wang did not answer a question about whether Trump and President Xi Jinping might meet in Florida this month to seal a trade deal. Tentative plans for such a summit have been put in doubt by continued disagreement over an enforcement mechanism, and over what limits China might accept on its ability to subsidize high-tech manufacturing.
China wants the United States to remove all the extra tariffs Trump imposed last year. That would leave China with its average tariffs of 7.5 percent on imports from all over the world, compared with 5 percent for the European Union and 3 percent for the United States.
China contends that it is still a developing country and therefore should not have to operate under the same trade rules as the West. Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said at the news conference Saturday that any revamping of the World Trade Organization, which the Trump administration has sought to overhaul, should respect the different needs of developing countries.
At a separate news conference, Xiao Yaqing, the director of China's powerful State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, denied the common perception in the West that China heavily subsidized its state-owned enterprises, including their exports. "State-owned enterprises are independent market players -- they are self-employed, self-financing, self-sustaining, self-restrained and self-developing," he said.
Trump has promised an ambitious agreement that would address ever-rising U.S. trade deficits with China at a time when Beijing poses a growing geopolitical challenge to the United States. China has built the world's largest navy and an archipelago of air bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and it has tried to promote its combination of single-party authoritarianism and state-led economic growth as a global alternative to democracy and free markets.
But the overall U.S. trade deficit, and specifically its deficit with China, further increased last year. Congressional Democrats have become increasingly critical of Trump on trade in recent days, accusing him of having become too willing to accept a weak deal just to have an agreement.
"The president was right to target China," Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who is the Senate minority leader, said Friday. "President Trump will have taken defeat out of the jaws of an almost victory if he now backs off for the sake of a photo-op or some brief changes in what China purchases."
Trump and his advisers continued to present a tough front Friday, even as the president predicted a jump in the stock market if a trade deal were to be reached with China. "If this isn't a great deal, we won't make a deal," he added.
Speaking Friday on CNBC, Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, pointed to Trump's recent talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North's nuclear arms, which ended abruptly without an agreement.
"And you saw him walk away from North Korea," Kudlow said. "I'm just saying that's a directive moment, it could apply to trade, I'm not forecasting. I'm just saying, it has got to be a good deal for the USA."
"If it doesn't measure up, the United States will stick to its guns, believe me on that," he added.
Members of a hospitality group walk across Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Saturday during a gathering of the advisory group for the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature.
A paramilitary policeman salutes delegates Saturday as they arrive at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen leaves after a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.
A Section on 03/10/2019
Print Headline: Chinese broach idea of applying 'fair' trade tool