‘If we meet, we meet?’: Trump casts doubt on trade talk breakthrough

President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting at the White House on Sept. 11 2018. LEAH MILLIS  Reuters

President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting at the White House on Sept. 11 2018. LEAH MILLIS Reuters

"We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us", he wrote on Twitter, in response to a Wall Street Journal article that cited "a steady rise in political pressure" to ease up on trade fights.

The Trump administration has reached out to China for a new round of trade talks as it prepares to activate punitive USA tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, two people familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing.

His first round of tariffs this summer hit US$50 billion in Chinese products like high-end technology parts and manufactured goods, while Beijing fired back dollar-for-dollar at USA soybeans, autos and other farm goods.

"We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us", Trump tweeted.

The Trump administration has invited Chinese officials to hold a new round of trade talks, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Wednesday.

The Trump administration is preparing to activate tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, hitting a broad array of internet technology products and consumer goods from handbags to bicycles to furniture.

He also made it clear he was ready to impose tariffs worth $200 billion on goods "very soon" if President Xin Jinping's government refused to back down.

If another US$267 billion worth of Chinese goods are targeted by the USA before the year's end, it would amount to essentially the entire annual volume of goods imported from China.

China has threatened retaliation, which could include action against US companies operating there.

The talks could stave off the growing costs for American firms, though the two sides have failed to reach an agreement over several rounds of negotiations in spring and summer. "I believe both countries would not be willing to see such a situation", ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday.

Such a meeting could take place in Washington or Beijing, though the timing is unclear, according to informed sources.

The next wave of 25 per cent tariffs on a further $200 billion in imports will loom over any talks - after a public consultation period for affected businesses came to an end last Thursday.

More than 60% of U.S. companies polled said the United States tariffs were already affecting their business operations, while a similar percentage said Chinese duties on USA goods were having an impact on business.

The survey released Thursday by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China polled almost 200 European firms doing business in China and found 17% are delaying investment or expansion plans.

A day earlier, more than 60 United States industry groups launched a coalition - Americans for Free Trade - to take the fight against the tariffs public.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, cautioned against seeing the invitation from Washington as a sign that the Trump administration had softened its stance.

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