China denies setting target to cut US trade surplus

Workers perform quality check on toys for export at a factory in Lianyungang in east China’s Jiangsu province. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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China denies setting target to cut US trade surplus

BEIJING: China said Thursday it has not set a target to cut its trade surplus with the US but will seek to increase imports after the two sides stepped back from a potential trade war.
Officials from Beijing were reported to have offered to slash the country’s huge surplus by $200 billion during high-level talks last week — meeting a key Washington demand — by ramping up imports from the US.
That was followed on Monday by President Donald Trump tweeting that China will buy “massive amounts” of additional American agriculture products.
But commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng denied that any figure was set during negotiations in Washington, which ended with the two countries agreeing to back off imposing tit-for-tat tariffs, though few details were revealed.
“China did not make any commitment on the specific amount of reduction of trade surplus with the US,” Gao told a regular news briefing.
“China will actively encourage companies to increase imports of US commodities and services according to market principles” and its own economic and consumption needs, Gao said.
“The two sides are willing to further strengthen cooperation in fields including agricultural products, energy, medical treatment, high-tech industry and finance.”
Both sides have extended olive branches since the weekend, with China announcing on Tuesday that it will cut auto import tariffs from July 1.
And Trump said his administration could impose a new fine of as much as $1.3 billion on embattled Chinese telecom company ZTE to replace crippling sanctions imposed last month that threatened to put the firm out of business.
However, there are concerns about Sunday’s agreement after Trump said he was “not satisfied” with it.


Sri Lanka calls for global coalition to tackle rising dollar

Updated 23 October 2018
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Sri Lanka calls for global coalition to tackle rising dollar

  • The island’s currency bottomed out at a record-low 174.12 rupees to the dollar
  • The rupee has shed more than 12 percent of its value this year and Sri Lanka fears it could slide further

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Tuesday called for a “coalition of the willing” to help stabilize free-falling emerging market currencies around the globe, as the beleaguered rupee slumped to fresh lows.
The island’s currency bottomed out at a record-low 174.12 rupees to the dollar, resisting a slew of measures by policymakers to arrest its steady decline.
The rupee has shed more than 12 percent of its value this year and Sri Lanka fears it could slide further as US sanctions squeeze Iran, the island’s chief source of oil.
A stronger dollar has made it difficult for emerging markets to repay debts and battered global currencies from Turkey to India and Argentina.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera invited those nations experiencing currency crises to visit Colombo and hash out a strategy.
“The rise of the dollar is having a serious impact on our currencies. We are not the only one affected,” he told reporters in the Sri Lankan capital.
“I want to build a coalition of the willing to deal with this problem. I don’t see the global situation improving any time soon.”
Washington pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May and has been reimposing punishing sanctions on the Islamic republic, targeting in particular its financial system.
Iran not only supplies Sri Lanka with most of its oil, but is one of its chief buyers of the island’s celebrated tea.
Samaraweera has warned that blockading Iran will have ripple on effects on Sri Lanka, which has been unable to stop the rupee from nose diving.
Last month, Colombo curbed its state institutions and public servants from importing cars to reduce the outflow of foreign capital.
Banks were also ordered to restrict lending for purchasing overseas and consumer goods, but the rupee has continued its decline.
In August, the government substantially increased taxes on small cars to discourage imports, but officials said there was still pressure on foreign exchange reserves to finance big-ticket imports.