China says still talking with U.S. on trade

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Zhong said the United States has overestimated its trade deficit with China by around 20 percent every year, adding the two countries have different ways of calculating trade figures.

"We have noticed that some foreign-funded businesses have complained about China's investment environment", Zhong said. "But we can handle any challenges and are determined to protect the interests of our country and its people".

Zhong also took issue with the statistics behind the trade imbalance - which showed a record $375.2 billion U.S. deficit with China during Trump's first year in office.

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

The U.S. reported a $375 billion deficit with China past year, so a 20 percent reduction would still be among the largest trade gaps that it has with any country.

The two sides haven't halted economic dialogues and will continue the exchanges, the minister stressed. But Zhong said communications have not been completely broken off.

Part of the reason for the trade gap, Zhong said, was that the U.S. had restricted hi-tech exports to China.

"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.

The two sides also agreed to talk about related issues in Beijing in the near future, aiming to create conditions for further cooperation. "If they drop their horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products going in, we will likewise drop ours".

Trump's response came after Malmstrom on Twitter described what she called "frank" but fruitless talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels last Saturday. "The outcome will only be harmful", Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

Meanwhile, other major tasks of the ministry for the year ahead include building cooperation platforms and focusing on the construction of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones.

Trump said Thursday that he was slapping tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, temporarily exempting big steel producers Canada and Mexico.

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".

Beijing has indicated it will implement retaliatory measures, such as by imposing tariffs on agricultural products imported from the United States.