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Vice-premier appeals for cooperation as it warns of 'trade war'

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM

A top Chinese official warned Sunday that a "trade war" would harm all sides, but gave no indication of Beijing's possible next move in a spiralling dispute with USPresident Donald Trump over steel and technology.

Speaking to global business leaders at a development forum, Vice-Premier Han Zheng appealed for cooperation to make economic globalisation "beneficial for all".

"A trade war serves the interests of none," Han said at the China Development Forum. "It will only lead to serious consequences and negative impact."

Han didn't mention Trump by name or refer directly to the dispute with Washington, but the country's newly appointed economy czar warned Saturday that Beijing

will defend its interests. The government issued a US$3-billion list on Friday of US goods, including pork and stainless steel pipes, it said might be hit by higher tariffs.

The commerce ministry said those charges were linked to Trump's approval earlier of higher tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. But a bigger battle is brewing over Trump's approval Thursday of a possible tariff hike on US$30 billion of Chinese goods in response to what Washington says is Beijing's improper acquisition of foreign technology.

Global financial markets have sunk on fears Chinese retaliation might prompt other governments to raise import barriers, depressing global trade.




Han appealed to other govern-ments to "cooperate with each other like passengers in the same boat" and "make economic globalisation more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all".

However, he also emphasised that China's income per person is still low, suggesting Beijing is unlikely to offer significant concessions to Washington.

Han repeated promises that China's planned market opening would create new opportunities for foreign companies. Business groups have welcomed reform pledges but complain Beijing is moving too slowly, making it unclear whether additional promises will mollify Washington, the European Union and other trading partners.