June 10, 2019 / 8:53 AM / 9 days ago

China stays silent on G20 Xi-Trump meeting, but says door open for talks

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is open for more trade talks with Washington but has nothing to announce about a possible meeting between the Chinese and U.S. leaders at this month’s G20 summit, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: China's Central Bank Governor Yi Gang approaches to greet U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Fukuoka, Japan June 8, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he is getting ready to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Osaka summit at the end of June, but China has not confirmed it.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that the leaders’ meeting has some parallels with their Buenos Aires summit last December, which saw Washington postpone a tariff hike while the two sides resumed negotiations.

Speaking in Beijing at a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang again would not confirm such a meeting.

But Geng said China has noticed that recently the U.S. side has said many times it hopes to arrange a Xi-Trump meeting then.

“If there is concrete news on this, China will release it in a timely manner,” Geng said.

On the trade dispute and talks about it, China’s position is very clear, he added.

“China does not want to fight a trade war, but is not afraid of one. If the U.S. side is willing to have equal consultations then our door is open. If the U.S. side insists on escalating the trade friction, we will firmly respond and fight to the end.”

As this year’s June 28-29 G20 summit in Osaka approaches, Trump is preparing to launch 25% tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports so far untouched by the two countries’ tariff war. They would apply to a $300 billion list of consumer goods including cell phones, computers and clothing.

Trump said on Thursday in France that he will decide whether to proceed with the tariffs after the meeting with Xi.

The Buenos Aires summit paved the way for five months of talks aimed at ending the festering trade dispute.

But negotiations broke down in early May, with the U.S. accusing the Chinese side of reneging on earlier commitments. No face-to-face meetings have been held since May 10, the day that Trump sharply increased tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods to 25% - the increase that he delayed after the Buenos Aires meeting.

Since then, acrimonious rhetoric and trade threats between Beijing and Washington have steadily increased, especially after the United States imposed severe sanctions against Huawei Technologies Co, China’s premier telecommunications equipment firm.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill

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