Trade relations between China and the U.S. will face a "serious setback" if the U.S. "rashly" imposes tariffs on Chinese imports, China's Commerce Ministry Bo Xilai said.
"China is not pursuing a big trade surplus with the U.S.," Bo said in a meeting with two U.S. senators on March 23, according to a statement posted on the Ministry of Commerce website late last night. "China is willing to increase U.S. imports to help trade develop evenly on both sides."
The U.S.'s trade deficit with China surged by a quarter to a record US$201.6 billion last year, prompting American lawmakers to threaten punitive tariffs on Chinese imports. New York Senator Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, were in China this week to decide whether to proceed to a vote on a bill which would apply 27.5 percent tariffs on Chinese imports. The senators accuse China of keeping the yuan artificially low to spur exports.
Bo said China acknowledges the trade deficit issue. Still, he said industry restructuring is to blame for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., not rising Chinese imports. He also asked for some existing trade restrictions to be lifted.
"China hopes the U.S. would quickly scrap restrictions on exports of high-technology products to the nation as this would bring more trade opportunities for the U.S.," Bo said in the statement.
The U.S. restricts companies from selling semiconductor-production equipment to China used to make more advanced 12-inch wafers.
The U.S. and China are planning to hold an April 11 trade summit in Washington, along with a visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Schumer told reporters on March 23 his decision on sanctions would depend on Hu's meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush on April 20, and the Treasury Department's latest review of U.S. trading partners' currency policies on April 15.
On July 21, China took the first step in a decade toward allowing a freely traded currency by letting the yuan, a denomination of China's currency, the renminbi, gain 2.1 percent against the dollar.
Meanwhile, China and Vietnam called on the European Union on Friday to lift anti-dumping duties on their shoe exports, rejecting the step as a violation of free trade.
"China's shoe products aren't dumped, and they aren't harming European industry," said a statement issued by Chong Quan, the spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry.
"The Chinese side asks the European side to treat Chinese industry fairly, conduct anew a reasonable analysis of this case, issue a judgment that conforms to WTO rules and protect the normal development of the Chinese-European shoe trade," Chong's statement said.