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China denies setting target to cut US trade surplus

China and the United States announced at the weekend that they had backed off imposing tarrifs on each other, averting a trade war © AFP

Beijing, China, May 24 – China said Thursday it has not set a target to cut its trade surplus with the US but will seek to increase imports after the two sides stepped back from a potential trade war.

Officials from Beijing were reported to have offered to slash the country’s huge surplus by $200 billion during high-level talks last week — meeting a key Washington demand — by ramping up imports from the United States.

That was followed on Monday by President Donald Trump tweeting that China will buy “massive amounts” of additional American agriculture products.

But commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng denied that any figure was set during negotiations in Washington, which ended with the two countries agreeing to back off imposing tit-for-tat tariffs, though few details were revealed.

“China did not make any commitment on the specific amount of reduction of trade surplus with the US,” Gao told a regular news briefing.

“China will actively encourage companies to increase imports of US commodities and services according to market principles” and its own economic and consumption needs, Gao said.

“The two sides are willing to further strengthen cooperation in fields including agricultural products, energy, medical treatment, high-tech industry and finance.”

Both sides have extended olive branches since the weekend, with China announcing on Tuesday that it will cut auto import tariffs from July 1.

And Trump said his administration could impose a new fine of as much as $1.3 billion on embattled Chinese telecom company ZTE to replace crippling sanctions imposed last month that threatened to put the firm out of business.

However, there are concerns about Sunday’s agreement after Trump said he was “not satisfied” with it.

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