The US will not back down from its trade dispute with China, and might even double its tariffs, according to vice president Mike Pence.
In a bluntly worded speech at an Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea, Pence stated: “We have taken decisive action to address our imbalance with China. We put tariffs on $250b in Chinese goods, and we could more than double that number. The United States, though, will not change course until China changes its ways.”
Pence’s warning on Saturday contrasted with remarks made by president Trump on Friday, when he said he may not impose more tariffs after China sent the United States a list of measures it was willing to take to resolve trade tensions.
Trump has imposed tariffs on $250b worth of Chinese imports to force concessions on a list of demands that would change the terms of trade between the two countries. Washington is demanding Beijing improve market access and intellectual property protections for U.S. companies, cut industrial subsidies and slash a $375b trade gap.
There was no hint of compromise from Pence. “China has taken advantage of the United States for many years. Those days are over.” he told delegates. He also took aim at China’s territorial ambitions in the Pacific and, particularly, Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative to expand land and sea links between Asia, Africa and Europe with billions of dollars in infrastructure investment. “We don’t offer constricting belts or a one-way road,” he stated.
Just minutes earlier, Xi had spoken at length about the Belt and Road initiative and the need for free trade across the region. “It is not an exclusive club closed to non-members, nor is it a trap as some people have labelled it,” Xi said of the project. He also called protectionism a “shortsighted approach” that was “doomed to fail”. “History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a Cold War, hot war, or trade war will produce no winners,” said Xi.