China restrained in trade tariffs; Malaysia concerned about impact

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BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Aug 4): China's state media said on Saturday the government's retaliatory tariffs on US$60 billion of US goods showed rational restraint and accused the United States of blackmail.

Late on Friday, China's finance ministry unveiled new sets of additional tariffs on 5,207 goods imported from the United States, with the extra levies ranging from 5 to 25 percent on a total value of goods less than half of that proposed by US President Donald Trump's administration.

The response follows the Trump administration's proposal of a 25 percent tariff on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

"China's countermeasures are rational," the Global Times, a tabloid run by the official People's Daily, said in a commentary.

"China will not rush to compete with US numbers," it said, echoing comments made by state television.

The United States and China implemented tariffs on US$34 billion worth of each others' goods in July. Washington is expected to soon implement tariffs on an additional $16 billion of Chinese goods, which China has already said it will match immediately.

"The White House's extreme pressure and blackmail are already clear to the international community," said a state television commentary.

"Such methods of extreme blackmail will not bear fruit against China."

China has now either imposed or proposed tariffs on US$110 billion in US goods, representing the vast majority of China's annual imports of American products. Last year, China imported about US$130 billion in goods from the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, remained staunch on Washington's push for fairer trading conditions with China.

"President Trump inherited an unfair trade regime where American workers and American companies were not treated reciprocally or fairly by the Chinese, and the efforts of the Trump administration are to right that, to correct that," Pompeo said to reporters on the sidelines of a regional forum in Singapore.

Pompeo added that he had discussed trade issues with Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi on Friday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he met Pompeo in Singapore and that his message was clear.

"My objective was quite straightforward: I think I need to inform him that we are very concerned," said Saifuddin.

Countries like Malaysia form an integral part of Chinese exporters' supply chains, and analysts have warned a trade war could knock billions of dollars off their economic growth in coming years.

"China has taken a necessary and legitimate response, based on the interests of the Chinese people and to protect the rules-based international trade system under the WTO," said Wang on the sidelines of the Singapore forum on Saturday.

In response to a question about White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow saying that China's latest measures are "weak", Wang said: "Does he want China to take an even stronger response?"