China commits to trade talks amid 'groundless' Huawei moves

Beijing is committed to striking a trade deal with the US but it’s ready to respond with more countermeasures, said Chinese envoy Cui Tiankai, as he called the blacklisting of Huawei an "unusual" act of state power against a company.

Cui said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Friday that China wants to continue working toward a trade agreement for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to finalise. There’s no official discussions about a meeting between the two leaders, said Cui, the Chinese ambassador to the US.

The two sides should have cooperation and collaboration, he said, adding that "trade is about mutual benefits, war is about mutual destruction. How can you put these two very different concepts in one term?"

Bruising Week

US stocks traded higher on Friday, at the end of a bruising week in which escalating trade tensions dominated the market landscape. The S&P 500 index rose 0.5% as of 09:51 in New York.

Trade talks between Beijing and Washington stalled this month as Trump accused China of backing out of a deal that the US said was almost completed. In response, Trump hiked the tariff rate on $200 billion in Chinese imports. The US also released a list of about $300 billion in Chinese goods that could face additional tariffs, including clothing, toys and mobile phones. If Trump follows through on that threat, US levies imposed since last year would cover essentially all imports from the Asian nation.

There are signs the trade conflict is spilling over into other areas, especially technology. The Trump administration last week placed Huawei Technologies on an export blacklist, choking off China’s biggest technology company from its US suppliers.

Cui said the accusations against Huawei are a "groundless suspicion" and he described the US action as an "unusual" move that mobilises "state power against a private company".

Cui’s comments underscored China’s efforts to defend its rights and a national prize like Huawei while avoiding red lines that might shatter hopes for a truce. Trump himself used a similar approach a day earlier in suggesting that Huawei could become part of an accord even as he scorned the company as "dangerous".

China Retaliation?

Asked about Chinese retaliation to the US’s Huawei moves, Cui said "we will do whatever’s necessary to protect the legitimate interests of our companies, of our people and of our country".

"If things are moving in the wrong direction, then you could see a response very soon," he said about the timetable for a Huawei response. "But if we could work together to push in the right direction, then things will get better of course."

At the heart of Trump’s crackdown is the suspicion that Chinese firms help Beijing spy on foreign governments. Huawei’s chief financial officer was arrested in Canada last year, and the US is seeking her extradition on charges she helped the company defraud banks by concealing business dealings with Iran in violation of US sanctions. She denies the charges.

Tech Progress

"What are people really up to under the pretext of national security? We don’t know," said Cui on Friday. "Can they really stop the technological progress? Can they really deprive people of the right to benefit from the technologies? I don’t think so. And do they really have the interests of the American people in mind? I don’t think so either."

Trump said Thursday that Huawei could "be included in some kind of trade deal" with China, without offering any details. The president also added that "Huawei is something that’s very dangerous. You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint, it’s very dangerous."

The US is also considering putting at least five Chinese surveillance-equipment companies on the same blacklist as Huawei. In another move that could target China, the Commerce Department said Thursday that it was considering a rule to put anti-subsidy tariffs on products from countries that undervalue their currencies.

China’s tone has become more belligerent since the US escalated the trade war. The US "continues to attack Chinese companies not because they have done anything wrong, but because they are too outstanding for the United States to accept," state-run Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary on Friday.

"We still believe that talks, communication, consultations on equal footing is the only way out for any dispute between us and we are still committed to that,” Cui said on Friday. "We are ready to deal with the current administration and President Trump."

"So far there’s no official discussion about a possible meeting between the two presidents," he said when asked about the potential for a meeting between Xi and Trump next month at a G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan. "But the possibility is always open."

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