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WASHINGTON: Unfazed by a Chinese warning that it may refuse to buy more goods from the United States, US President Donald Trump indicated on Monday that he was ready to impose the tariffs that caused the Chinese reaction.

“China already charges a tax of 16 per cent on soyabeans. Canada has all sorts of trade barriers on our Agricultural products. Not acceptable,” he tweeted.

In a second tweet, Trump referred to both China and the stalled negotiations with Canada and Mexico over updating the 24-year-old Nafta pact.

“Farmers have not been doing well for 15 years. Mexico, Canada, China and others have treated them unfairly. By the time I finish trade talks, that will change,” he tweeted. “Big trade barriers against US farmers, and other businesses, will finally be broken. Massive trade deficits no longer!” he said.”

Earlier on Monday, the United States and China completed their trade talks, with a warning from Beijing that it could refuse to buy more American goods if Washington imposed new tariffs.

The White House, however, tried to defuse the impact of the Chinese warning, insisting that the talks focused on the subject it wanted, US trade deficits.

“The meetings focused on reducing the United States’ trade deficit by facilitating the supply of agricultural and energy products to meet China’s growing consumption needs, which will help support growth and employment in the United States,” the White House said.

Over the weekend, a US delegation, led by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, concluded a series of meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing, as part of ongoing trade discussions. Secretary Ross and vice premier Liu He, who led the Chinese delegation, did not issue a joint statement after they wrapped up the two-day talks.

Instead, both sides issued separate statements.

The Chinese government used the official Xinhua news agency to warn that imposing economic sanctions on Chinese goods would derail trade talks.

President Trump said earlier this month he would impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese industrial exports “shortly” after June 15.

Chinese officials, however, reminded the US delegation that “agreements between China and the United States should be based on the premise of both sides moving in the same direction and not waging a trade war,” the Xinhua report said.

“If the US launches trade sanction measures, including the imposition of tariffs, then all the economic and trade benefits negotiated by both sides are not going to take effect,” it added.

The White House said that US officials “conveyed President Donald Trump’s clear goal for achieving a fair trading relationship with China,” the White House said in a statement issued in Washington.

The White House also said that the US delegation was returning to Washington now to receive “guidance on the path forward.”

The US and China held a previous round of talks in May, where Chinese officials said they would “substantially” reduce the trade surplus with America.

The US media reported that the Trump administration sent the delegation to Beijing to negotiate long-term contracts with the Chinese to boost sales of US agricultural and energy products. The media also noted that Trump’s threat last week to impose new duties on Chinese goods had dimmed the prospects for success.

The media speculated that now Trump could accelerate the tariffs by publishing the final list of the goods selected for additional tariffs.

However, the media warned that this could further strain relations between the United States and China, which could also jeopardize the outcome of the meeting between Mr. Trump’s meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un later this month.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2018