China warns it will retaliate if Donald Trump follows through on threat of new tariffs

WASHINGTON – On the eve of tense trade talks, China made it official Wednesday: If President Donald Trump hits them with new tariffs, they will hit Trump and the United States with tariffs of their own.

“The escalation of trade friction is not in the interests of the people of the two countries and the people of the world,” said a statement from China’s Commerce Ministry. “The Chinese side deeply regrets that if the US tariff measures are implemented, China will have to take necessary countermeasures.”

The counter-threat came as a Chinese trade delegation made its way to Washington, three days after Trump’s threat of new tariffs roiled global markets and cast doubt on the prospects of a new trade deal.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office filed an official notice of new tariffs that would take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday if no new trade deal is reached. 

U.S. and Chinese negotiators are scheduled to meet on Thursday.

President Donald Trump (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images)

Trump sent mixed messages about the negotiations on Wednesday. While claiming a Chinese trade delegation is “coming to the U.S. to make a deal,” Trump also said the trade rivals may be pulling back from an agreement in the hopes that a Democratic president will be elected in 2020.

“The reason for the China pullback & attempted renegotiation of the Trade Deal is the sincere HOPE that they will be able to ‘negotiate’ with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to ripoff the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come,” Trump said in a tweet.

The administration wants an agreement that will stop what it calls China’s unfair trade practices, including theft of U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets, forced technology transfers and currency manipulation. China denies those claims, but said it wants to maintain a good trade relationship with the U.S.

More: Trump’s threatened tariff hike to 25% on Chinese goods would hurt consumers, the economy

On Sunday, Trump said on Twitter that by Friday he would increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. Trump also threatened a 25% tariff on an additional $325 billion of imported goods as he protested the pace of trade talks.

“The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” Trump said.

Global markets dropped in the wake of Trump’s threat, as investors feared new U.S. tariffs and Chinese retaliatory tariffs will raise prices for consumers and slow the global economy.

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China reportedly considered abandoning those talks after Trump’s threat. But on Tuesday it announced it would send a trade delegation to Washington to meet with U.S. counterparts on Thursday and Friday. China’s delegation includes its key player: Liu He, China’s vice premier and lead trade negotiator.

If Trump follows through on his threat to place levies on an additional $325 billion in goods, every Chinese product imported into the United States would be subject to a tariff.

More: This is what might happen if U.S. starts a trade war with China

More: Donald Trump claims Chinese trade deal is ‘very close’

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