China is not budging ahead of Xi-Trump G-20 meeting

Flags of the US and China are placed ahead of a meeting between US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and China’s Agriculture Minister Han Changfu at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing on June 30, 2017.

Jason Lee | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING— The Chinese Ministry of Commerce maintained a firm stance against the U.S. during a weekly press conference Thursday, less than two days ahead of a scheduled meeting between the leaders of the two countries.

“We urge the U.S. to immediately cancel its pressure and sanction measures on Huawei and other Chinese companies, and push for the stable and healthy development of China-U.S. trade relations,“ Gao Feng, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said in Mandarin, according to a CNBC translation.

Gao added the China is unchanged on its position on the trade dispute, as laid out by lead negotiator and Vice Premier Liu He in May. The three primary points are canceling all additional tariffs, not arbitrarily changing what the two countries’ leaders agreed upon at the G-20 meeting in Argentina late last year and that a trade agreement must be on equal terms.

The comments, and those of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Geng Shuang at a separate press conference on Thursday, generally reiterated the Chinese side’s talking points from the last several weeks.

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet Saturday morning Japan time in Osaka during the G-20 summit, according to a White House spokesman.

In the run-up to the meeting, the Trump administration has sent mixed messages. Trump has wanted to meet with Xi, and last week the Chinese leader said in a phone call he was willing to accept the request.

A few days later, the U.S. Commerce Department added five Chinese companies to the same list that Huawei is on, effectively cutting them off from U.S. suppliers. Then on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC the U.S. and China had been close to a trade deal, and that he thinks “there’s a path to complete” one.

The two delegations have been in contact since the two presidents communicated. Liu He held a phone call with Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday to discuss economic and trade issues, according to state news agency Xinhua.

In advance of the two leaders’ meeting, South China Morning Post on Thursday reported, citing sources, that both sides are preparing press releases for an expected agreement that includes the U.S. postponing planned tariff increases on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Gao declined to provide details on an “unreliable entities list” that China has touted since late May, in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. placing Huawei on a so-called entity list. Gao did note that the U.S. has placed export controls on 47 Chinese companies and organizations.

“I want to emphasize that a trade war doesn’t have a winner,“ Gao said. ”Those who are ultimately hurt are U.S. companies and consumers.”

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