China trade deficit figure overestimated by about 20 pct: commerce minister

Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan

In 2017, trade volume between China and countries along the Belt and Road amounted to 7.4 trillion yuan (about 1.2 trillion USA dollars), surging 17.8 percent year on year, outpacing the 14.2-percent increase in China's total foreign trade last year, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on February 28. "However, we are capable of handling any challenge, and we resolutely defend the interest of the country and the people".

This could be further cut by 35 per cent if the USA lifts the ban on high-tech exports to China, he added. China is not one of those nations.

China's persistently high trade surplus with the U.S. is the root of the tension, and Trump has said he plans to trim it by US$100 billion.

He noted that China's top economic adviser Liu He visited the U.S. recently and held "candid and constructive" talks with American officials on bilateral trade issues.

As China's exports surged in February its monthly surplus with the U.S. widened from a year earlier to $20.96 billion, according to data from the customs bureau.

The main channel of dialogue on trade between the two nations, the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, has been put on hold over USA frustration over a lack of progress.

More than 140 countries have participated in or responded to the initiative since it was proposed by China in 2013, said the minister.

"We are not only talking for now, we will continue to talk in the future", he said.

"The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the United States very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum", he wrote on Twitter. "Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!"

Zhong also said he plans to meet with Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko to discuss trade and investment issues. "As a close security and trade partner of the USA, the European Union must be excluded from the announced measures", she said.

This comes after U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a proclamation that sets the tariff on imports of steel at 25% and on aluminum at 10%, to be effected in 15 days.

Mr Trump said on Saturday the United States was "working very quickly on a security agreement" so as not to impose the tariffs on "our ally, the great nation of Australia".

China's metals industry issued the country's most explicit threat yet in the row, urging the government to retaliate by targeting U.S. coal - a sector central to Mr Trump's political base and his election pledge to restore USA industries and blue-collar jobs.

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