One of China’s top trade negotiators has accused Washington of putting “a knife to the neck” with massive tariffs, as Chinese ministers hit back at US President Donald Trump’s attacks on Chinese intellectual property theft.
But as the trade war fires up, the Chinese officials also highlighted that third countries including Australia could benefit as US farmers and energy producers faced new tariffs in China.
The first meeting between foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in New York also appeared to show warming Australian and Chinese ties, with the pair expressing support for multilateral free trade.
In Beijing, vice minister of commerce Wang Shouwen said the tariff measures the United States had taken were so large it was like “putting a knife to someone’s neck”.
“How can the negotiation be conducted under such circumstances?”
Six vice ministers and agency heads fronted a press conference with international media on Tuesday in Beijing, after China’s State Council released a White Paper on the trade war.
Wang said China’s agricultural imports from Brazil and Australia had “grown substantially” in the first seven months of the year, as US sales grew only modestly.
LNG suppliers in the United States were also missing out on China’s market because of the trade war, while the trade with Australia was very large, with very large potential, he said.
Trump’s accusation of intellectual property theft was “totally groundless and pays no regard to the progress China has made in IPR [intellectual property rights] protection,” said deputy commissioner of the National Intellectual Property Administration, He Hua.
He said China’s economy needed to protect intellectual property to defend its own innovation, and highlighted the growing volume of cases in Chinese courts, where 80 per cent of patent violation cases lodged are won. “China has become a preferred place for IPR lawsuits for multinational companies,” He said.
China’s State Council had issued regulations prohibiting any government department from forcing technology to be transferred from a foreign company to a Chinese company, said Wang.
The US envoy to the World Trade Organisation has argued that forced technology transfer is often an “unwritten rule” for companies wanting to access China.
Wang said: “The deals are made between foreign companies and their Chinese partners. They are equal members of the market… there is no government role.”
He said the joint ventures were permitted under WTO rules, and US car joint ventures were making bigger profits in China than their US offices.
But China had a timetable to abolish joint venture requirements for foreign companies in the automotive, aircraft, ship building, finance and insurance industries.
China would support necessary reform of the WTO, and would keep improving its laws on IPR protection, the media were told.
The impact of the trade war was unavoidable but the risks were under control and China’s economy was resilient, said Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of China’s economic regulator, the National Development and Reform Commission.
China’s vice minister of commerce Fu Ziying warned: “Looking at history, whether a trade war or real war, it comes with a huge price. The people suffer in the end.”
Meanwhile at the UN General Assembly in New York, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told Marise Payne that China and Australia had “highly complementary” economies, supported free trade and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“The commonality between the two sides is far greater than the differences. China has noted that the new Australian government has expressed its willingness to adopt a positive China policy… China is willing to rebuild mutual trust with the Australian side,” he said, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
Payne said Australia attached importance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, according to the Chinese statement.
By Kirsty Needham