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China cancels trade talks with U.S. as new Trump tariffs loom

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and President Trump attend a welcome ceremony in Beijing on Nov. 9. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

China has scrapped trade talks with the United States days before President Trump is set to escalate the commercial battle with a new round of tariffs, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Chinese officials canceled the planned negotiations after Trump announced he would impose new levies of up to 10 percent on another $200 billion in Chinese imports, effective Monday. Beijing vowed to strike back, slapping duties of up to 10 percent on an additional $60 billion in American products.

China’s Commerce Ministry did not immediately respond Saturday. 

Beijing had prepared to send Vice Premier Liu He, the country’s top-ranking economic official, to Washington next week, along with a mid-level delegation to prepare for his visit, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been expected to oversee the talks, which were called in hopes of easing tensions between the world’s two largest economies, U.S. officials have said. 

The effort crumbled a week after Trump tweeted the White House felt “no pressure” to resolve the dispute with China. He has accused the country of stealing intellectual property from American businesses, among other trade infractions.

“We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us,” he wrote, adding: “If we meet, we meet?”

Analysts said the news reflects the breakdown in the international relationship. 

“This is brinkmanship that benefits no one and a reflection that four decades of constructive U.S.-China relations are spiraling out of control,” said James Zimmerman, partner in the Beijing office of the international firm Perkins Coie and former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

U.S. industry groups in China urged Trump on Saturday to restart negotiations, asserting that fraying ties between the countries is bad for global business. 

“We encourage both sides to resume a results-oriented dialogue in earnest,” said Jake Parker, vice president of China operations at the U.S.-China Business Council, which represents about 200 firms, including PepsiCo, Apple and General Motors. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has refused to bend to the White House’s demands amid escalating threats from Trump, who pledged to place tariffs on virtually everything the United States buys from China if Beijing responds with the new duties. 

Xi faces public pressure to stand undaunted by Trump’s financial swings at his country, analysts say, as he seeks to prove that China, too, is a superpower on the international stage. 

Beijing’s next round of tariffs, slated to take effect Monday at noon, target more than 5,200 kinds of American imports, including industrial parts, chemicals and medical instruments. 

“In order to safeguard our legitimate rights and interests and the global free trade order, China will have to take countermeasures,” the country’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. “We deeply regret this.”

Trump’s latest levies bring more uncertainty into the status of negotiations, Chinese officials said at the time, suggesting the economic conflict could drag on indefinitely.

By next week, the United States and China could be poised to impose tariffs on their entire exchange of goods, which surpasses $635 billion annually. An all-out trade war would trigger job losses in both countries, economists say, as well as a spike in the cost of household goods, including bedding, furniture, toys, razors and toaster ovens.

Trump’s next opportunity to meet with Xi is in November at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. Both leaders are expected to attend the multilateral conference. 

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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