Chinese envoy says trade talks with US have not broken down

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, second from left, and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, right, speak with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, left, as he departs the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, center, and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, right, speak with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, left, as he departs the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He departs the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He waves to members of the media as he departs the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, second from left, and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, right, speak with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, left, as he departs the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

BEIJING — China's leading envoy to trade talks in Washington says the failure to strike a deal in the tariffs war with the U.S. was "just a small setback" and negotiations will continue despite increases in import duties on American imports from China.

In comments to reporters before he left Washington for Beijing on Friday, Vice Premier Liu He said he was cautiously optimistic but that a deal would require the Trump administration to agree to end the punitive tariffs it has imposed on billions of dollars' worth of Chinese goods.

In comments carried by China's state-run CCTV, Liu said the remaining differences are crucial ones having to do with principles, "and we will make no concessions on matters of principle."

Still, he said he did not believe the negotiations had broken down.

"On the contrary, I think it is just a small setback in the talks between two countries, which is inevitable," Hong Kong's Phoenix TV showed him as saying.

Liu said it was "China's opinion that the tariffs are the starting point of the trade friction and must be totally lifted if a deal is reached."

The Trump administration raised tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods to 25% from 10% on Friday. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. was preparing to expand those tariffs to cover $300 billion of Chinese products that aren't already facing import taxes, or virtually everything imported from China.

Liu also said the two sides were disagreeing over the amount of goods China would pledge to purchase from the U.S. to help reduce the American trade deficit.

"We think this is a very serious issue and we cannot easily change our minds," he said.

Liu sought to downplay the scale and impact of the dispute, saying that China was a strong nation and would surmount any problems caused by the conflict.

"We just had differences on the wording in certain documents and we hoped to solve the differences," he said. "Therefore, we think it unnecessary to make an overreaction to it."

Must Read

Bumpy beginning for Obama in China, starting on the tarmac

Sep 4, 2016

If President Barack Obama was hoping for a graceful start to his final trip to Asia as commander in...

Britain's May seeks out new trading relations post-Brexit

Sep 4, 2016

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she intends to seize new trading opportunities for a...

New wave of anti-China activists set for Hong Kong vote win

Sep 5, 2016

A new wave of anti-China activists appeared headed for victory in Hong Kong's most crucial...

May says Britain still inspires confidence post-Brexit

Sep 5, 2016

After meeting with other world leaders during the G-20 summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May...

Asian markets lower after Wall Street decline

Sep 15, 2016

Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday following Wall Street's decline in light trading...