June 3, 2019 / 11:22 PM / 3 months ago

USTR, Treasury say China pursuing 'blame game' on trade talks breakdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said on Monday that China was pursuing a “blame game” in recent public statements and a weekend white paper that misrepresented the trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies.

FILE PHOTO: Flags of U.S. and China are displayed at American International Chamber of Commerce (AICC)'s booth during China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing, China, May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

In a joint statement, the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office and the U.S. Treasury reiterated their view that China’s negotiators had “backpedalled” on important elements of a deal that had been largely agreed, including on an enforcement provision.

“Our insistence on detailed and enforceable commitments from the Chinese in no way constitutes a threat to Chinese sovereignty,” USTR and the Treasury said. “Rather, the issues discussed are common to trade agreements and are necessary to address the systemic issues that have contributed to persistent and unsustainable trade deficits.”

China on Sunday issued a government policy paper on the U.S.-China trade dispute in which it asserted that the United States bore responsibility for setbacks in the talks, citing three instances in which Washington had backtracked on commitments made during the negotiations.

China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, a prominent member of Beijing’s negotiating team, said in presenting the paper to the media that it would be impossible for the United States to use “extreme pressure” to force concessions from China.

Acrimonious rhetoric between Beijing and Washington has steadily increased since talks broke down in early May over U.S. accusations that Beijing had backtracked on commitments to codify in law changes to its intellectual property and technology transfer practices to address U.S. demands.

President Donald Trump imposed an increase in tariffs to 25% on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods on May 10, saying that China “broke the deal.” His administration later imposed severe sanctions against Huawei Technologies Co, China’s premier telecommunications equipment firm.

“The United States is disappointed that the Chinese have chosen in the ‘White Paper’ issued (on Sunday) and recent public statements to pursue a blame game misrepresenting the nature and history of trade negotiations between the two countries,” USTR and Treasury said in the statement.

The agencies, which have taken the lead in negotiations for the U.S. side, said that the impetus for the negotiations was China’s “long history of unfair trade practices,” and U.S. negotiating positions have been consistent throughout the talks.

There have been no talks scheduled since the last round ended in May, and it remains unclear whether Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet when they both attend the G20 leaders summit later this month in Japan.

Reporting by David Lawder and Roberta Rampton; editing by G Crosse

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