China criticises US trade report – but stays silent on tariff hikes

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China has expressed “grave concern” about a US trade policy report that pledges to pressure Beijing but had no immediate response to President Donald Trump’s plan to hike tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The report accused China of moving away from market principles and pledged to prevent Beijing from disrupting global trade.

“The Chinese side expresses grave concern,” said a commerce ministry statement.

The ministry said Beijing has satisfied its trade obligations and appealed to Washington to settle disputes through negotiation.

However, there was no immediate response to Mr Trump’s announcement that he will increase duties on steel and aluminium imports. Chinese officials have threatened to take “necessary measures” to defend their country’s interests.

Beijing faces mounting complaints from Washington, Europe and other trading partners that it improperly subsidises exports and hampers access to its markets in violation of its free-trade commitments.

“The United States aims to hold countries that break the rules accountable for their actions,” the White House said in a statement.

German officials and industry groups have warned Mr Trump risks sparking a trade war with his closest allies if he goes ahead with his plans.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the tariffs would hurt international commerce and that the US would not solve issues of global overcapacity of both steel and aluminium with “unilateral measures”.

German producers would clearly be impacted by any US tariffs, as they account for about 4% percent of US steel imports. Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the announcement raised “serious concerns” and that a blanket duty would punish everyone.

“Unlike possibly other countries, there’s no unfair competition or dumping prices from German or European firms,” he said.

He urged Mr Trump to reconsider, suggesting that a trade war between allies would harm both sides.

Hans Juergen Kerkhoff, president of the German Steel Federation, said the tariffs would violate World Trade Organisation rules and urged the EU to take action.

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