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China says it's still preparing for US trade talks — but won't give details after new Trump threats

Key Points
  • A source briefed on the talks had told CNBC that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will likely cancel the trip he'd planned for the final round of talks that U.S. officials had previously said could yield a deal by Friday.
  • A second source said Trump's decision to more than double the tariff rate on $200 billion of goods was meant to send a message to Liu to not come to the U.S. with more "empty offers."
  • During a Monday news conference, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said through a translator that the country's team "is preparing to travel to the U.S. for the trade talks." He did not confirm whether Liu would be among that group.
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China trade tensions flare as President Trump threatens new tariffs

China said Monday its negotiators are still preparing to travel to the U.S. for trade talks this week despite President Donald Trump threatening Beijing with increased tariffs.

That wasn't quite a confirmation that the talks would still go on, but it quieted some concern following multiple reports that the Chinese side was reconsidering its involvement in the negotiations.

Trump said in a Sunday afternoon Twitter post that the current 10% tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will rise to 25% on Friday. He also threatened to impose 25% levies on an additional $325 billion of Chinese goods "shortly."

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had planned to bring a large delegation to Washington on Wednesday to hash out a trade deal — and there'd been talk in recent days that something resembling a deal could result. Instead, two sources briefed on the talks said the Chinese side may be weighing backing out of this week's negotiations.

That was pegged to Trump's new threats, they said, which abandon a six-month truce after Beijing waffled on some previously discussed commitments.

One source had said the Chinese vice premier would likely cancel the trip he'd planned for himself and a 100-person delegation for the final round of talks that U.S. officials had previously said could yield a deal by Friday. Chinese officials canceled a trip in late September 2018 in similar circumstances.

A second source said Trump's decision to more than double the tariff rate on $200 billion of goods was meant to send a message to Liu to not come to the U.S. with more "empty offers."

During a Monday news conference, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said through a translator that the country's team "is preparing to travel to the U.S. for the trade talks." He did not confirm whether Liu would be among that group.

The spokesman, Geng Shuang would not elaborate on the number of people on the Chinese team, the length of the trip, or the date of departure. Instead, he told reporters to contact the relevant authority. The Ministry of Commerce did not respond to a CNBC faxed request for comment.

Geng also emphasized that such back-and-forth in the trade negotiations have happened before, and that the latest round of talks saw "positive" progress.

The White House, the Treasury and the U.S. Trade Representative's office did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.