China’s foreign minister said Saturday that his country’s threat to impose retaliatory tariffs on $60-billion (R800-billion) of American goods in an escalating trade spat was “fully justified”.
Beijing threatened Friday to bring in the levies on products ranging from beef to condoms after US President Donald Trump’s administration upped the ante in its plans for additional tariffs on Chinese goods worth $200-billion.
Washington suggested the rate on the proposed extra tariffs could be increased from 10 to 25 percent.
The two countries have been embroiled for months in a trade conflict that has threatened to hurt consumers in both countries.
Washington claims that China’s export economy benefits from unfair policies and subsidies, as well as theft of American technological know-how.
Speaking on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China’s threat of retaliatory tariffs was “fully justified and necessary”.
“These are measures taken out of the consideration for upholding the interests of the Chinese people,” he said, speaking through a translator.
He said the move was also aimed at upholding the “global free trade regime” that was underpinned by the World Trade Organisation.
Wang also hit back at comments by top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who ridiculed China’s tariff threat as “weak” and said the world’s second-largest economy was in significant “trouble”.
“As to whether China’s economy is doing well or not, I think it is all too clear to the whole international community,” Wang said, adding that China contributed a huge amount to global economic growth.
“I don’t see why he would come to the conclusion that China’s economy is not doing well.”
In early July, the US imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34-billion of Chinese goods, with another $16 billion to be targeted in coming weeks, sparking retaliatory measures from China.
Days later, Washington unveiled a list of another $200-billion in Chinese goods, from areas as varied as electrical machinery, leather goods and seafood, that would be hit with 10 percent import duties.
But Trump raised the stakes this week with his threat to lift the tariff rate.
China has said new duties will be applied only if Washington pulls the trigger on its new tariffs.
The Republican president has been keen to show he is tough on trade ahead of tricky congressional elections in November — but there are growing signs of concern in the White House that the dispute could affect Trump’s political base.