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Wed, 04 Dec 2019 12:40 - Updated Wed, 04 Dec 2019 12:40

China warns U.S. over Uighur bill, raising doubts over early trade deal

BEIJING/WASHINGTON - China warned on Wednesday that the U.S. House of Representatives bill calling for a tougher U.S. response to Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority will impact bilateral cooperation, clouding prospects for a near-term deal to end a trade war.

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Expectations of a quick deal had receded already, after U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that it might take until late 2020 to reach agreement.

The U.S. House’s approval of the Uighur Act of 2019, which still has to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate before being sent to Trump, has angered Beijing and further strains an already testy relationship.

Several sources familiar with Beijing’s stance told Reuters that the bill could jeopardize the so-called phase one deal already fraught with disagreements and complications.

With a new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled to take effect in less than two weeks, the possibility of another breakdown is growing.

“Do you think if America takes actions to hurt China’s interests we won’t take any action,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters when asked whether the Uighur bill will affect the trade negotiations. “I think any wrong words and deeds must pay the due price.”

Negotiators have continued to work on the trade deal, but sources familiar with the talks say the two sides are still wrangling over the details including whether existing U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods will be removed and how much in additional U.S. agricultural products China will buy.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday the U.S. and China are “moving closer” to agreeing on how much tariffs would be rolled back in a phase-one trade deal despite the Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues, citing people familiar with the talks.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Tuesday that staff-level trade negotiations with China were continuing but no high-level trade talks have been scheduled. The planned tariffs on remaining Chinese imports will take effect on Dec. 15 if there is no significant progress in the talks or a deal, he said.

Hua said China will not set any timeline or deadline for a trade deal and would take “decisive” countermeasures to defend its interests if Washington’s protectionism and bullying ove

r trade continues. She did not elaborate on what the measures might be,REUTERS.

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