China says trade war would bring `disaster' to world

Donald Trump with Xi Jinping

China doesn't want a trade war with the United States and will not start one, but can handle any related challenges and will defend national and Chinese people's interests, Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said Sunday.

Zhong made the comment at a briefing on the sidelines of China's annual session of parliament. "A trade war will only bring disaster to China, US and the global economy".

China's persistently high trade surplus with the U.S. is the root of the tension, and Trump has said he plans to trim it by US$100 billion.

President Xi Jinping's top economic advisor, Liu He, held trade discussions with United States officials at the White House earlier this month but the meetings yielded few breakthroughs.

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As China's exports surged in February its monthly surplus with the USA widened from a year earlier to $20.96 billion, according to data from the customs bureau. The commerce minister also blamed the trade imbalance in part on controls over USA high-tech exports to China. The US trade shortfall in goods with China surged 8.1 percent during the first year of Trump's presidency, reaching a record $375 billion, according to Commerce Department data released last month. But Zhong said communications have not been completely broken off.

Liu He, a senior Chinese economic and financial official met with US officials earlier this month and they have agreed that the two countries should settle their trade disputes by cooperation rather than confrontation.

While he declined to say how Beijing planned to respond to the tariffs imposed by Washington on aluminium and steel imports, he said the two sides remained in talks on the issue.

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