U.S. President Donald Trump (File Photo:China News Service/Diao Haiyang)
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that trade "negotiations" between Beijing and Washington were going well, a claim that - though contradicting China's statement that no such talks were being held - may be welcomed by American business lobbyists who oppose his tariffs.
"I'm proud to announce that we're getting along very well with respect to the whole very big negotiation that we're having with China," Trump said during talks on tax cuts for American workers on Thursday.
"We're doing really well with China. I think we're having some great discussions, we'll see what happens," Trump said in another meeting attended by lawmakers and governors, according to Reuters.
However, different from Trump's narrative, China's Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday that as of now Chinese and U.S. government officials "have never engaged in any negotiations concerning the trade friction".
"Principles must be followed before negotiations get started. However, the U.S. has not shown any sincerity to negotiate," ministry spokesman Gao Feng said in Beijing.
Gao said that whether the two sides can negotiate under the World Trade Organization framework will hinge on whether the U.S. side still respects the WTO and multilateral rules.
The Trump White House threatened to impose tariffs on 0 billion worth of Chinese products last Thursday, in addition to a billion tariff package proposed two days earlier, which provoked China to slap 25 percent tariffs on imports of U.S. soybeans, corn, airplanes and automobiles.
"If imposed, these tariffs will result in higher prices for American consumers and fewer jobs for American workers," a U.S. business coalition, representing 107 trade groups, said in a letter addressed to the chairman and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
The business coalition opposing White House plans to levy tariffs against Chinese goods has doubled to 107 trade groups, ranging from such Washington DC heavyweights like the National Retail Federation and the Security Industry Association to such smaller local groups as the San Diego Customs Brokers Association, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The coalition was put together about a month ago, when it had 45 trade groups. It sent a letter to Trump on March 18, urging the administration to halt its China-tariff plans, but in vain.
In its Wednesday letter, the coalition warned that "the impact of a trade war and tariffs would be felt by businesses, workers, farmers, consumers throughout the U.S. and across industry sectors."
It called attention to U.S. farmers and exporters, which, affected by China's proposed retaliatory measures, risk losing markets. It added that subsidies and other government forms of assistance are also not a solution, apparently referring to Trump's consideration of a Depression-era program to help bail out American farmers.
In Geneva on Thursday, the WTO forecast 4.4 percent growth in trade volume in 2018 and a more moderate 4 percent growth next year.
Talking about the strong trade growth that is vital for continued economic growth and to support job creation, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevdo cautioned that the important progress "could be quickly undermined if governments resort to restrictive trade policies".
"A cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs," he said, according to the WTO website.
"The pressing trade problems confronting WTO members is best tackled through collective action," he said. "I urge governments to show restraint and settle their differences through dialogue and serious engagement."