(Bloomberg) — China declined to confirm phone calls with the U.S. that President Donald Trump claimed happened over the weekend, during which Trump said China indicated it wanted to work toward a trade deal.
“I’m not aware of that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. “Regretfully the U.S. has announced its decision to add new tariffs on Chinese products. Such maximum pressure will hurt both sides and is not constructive at all.”
On Monday, Trump said the prospects for a deal with China are better now than at any time since negotiations began last year, even as a top state-media editor in Beijing questioned his version of events. Tensions between the world’s two biggest economies have escalated in recent days after both sides announced new tariffs on each other’s goods and Trump called for American companies to leave China.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times, said in a tweet that top trade negotiators hadn’t spoken by phone in recent days and that Trump was exaggerating the significance of the trade contacts. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “there were discussions that went back and forth and let’s just leave it at that.”
Geng repeated China’s stance on the trade talks at Tuesday’s briefing. “We hope the U.S. can exercise restraint, come back to reason and create conditions for our consultation based on mutual respect equality and mutual benefit,” he said.
China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, said Monday China is “willing to solve the problem through consultation and cooperation with a calm attitude,” which Trump cited as a positive signal. Still, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily said in a commentary on Tuesday that the U.S. “shouldn’t misjudge” China’s determination to firmly retaliate if America follows through with higher tariffs.
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