BEIJING: Tariffs must be cut if China and the United States are to reach an interim agreement on trade, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday, sticking to its stance that some US tariffs must be rolled back for a phase one deal.

“The Chinese side believes that if the two sides reach a phase one deal, tariffs should be lowered accordingly,” ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.

Completion of a phase one deal between the world’s two biggest economies had been initially expected in November, ahead of a new round of US tariffs set to kick in on Dec 15, covering about $156 billion of Chinese imports.

Trade delegations on both sides remained locked in discussions over “core issues of concern,” with rising bilateral tensions over non-trade issues such as the protests in Hong Kong and Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority clouding prospects for a near-term deal to end a trade war.

China warned on Wednesday that US legislation calling for a tougher response to Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang will affect bilateral cooperation.

But “there is no need to panic,” as talks did not stop, a Chinese source who advises Beijing on the trade talks told Reuters on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019