US presses China to cut trade surplus

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is pressing China to cut its trade surplus with the United States by $100 billion, a White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday, clarifying a tweet last week from President Donald Trump.

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Last Wednesday, Mr Trump tweeted that China had been asked to develop a plan to reduce its trade imbalance with the United States by $1 billion, but the spokeswoman said Mr Trump had meant to say $100 billion.

The US had a record $375 billion trade deficit with China in 2017, which made up two thirds of a global $566 billion US trade gap last year, according to US Census Bureau data.

China reported its 2017 US trade surplus as $276 billion, also about two thirds of its reported global surplus of $422.5 billion.

The White House spokeswoman declined to provide details about how the administration would like China to accomplish the surplus-cutting goal – whether increased purchases of US products such as soybeans or aircraft would suffice, or whether it wants China to make major changes to its industrial policies, cut subsidies to state-owned enterprises or further reduce steel and aluminum capacity.

In an editorial yesterday, widely-read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said the US was trying to play the victim.

“If the U.S. wants to reduce its trade deficit, it has to make Americans more hard-working and conduct reforms in accordance with international market demand, instead of asking the rest of the world to change,” it wrote.

“Once a trade war starts, capable countries won’t bow to the US. China has tried hard to avoid a trade war, but if one breaks out, appeasement is not an option.”

Speaking to reporters, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said history showed that trade wars are in nobody’s interests.

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