China echoed comments from President Donald Trump Wednesday, saying there was no deadline for signing a US-China trade deal, as tensions spiked between the two countries over human rights issues.
On Tuesday, Trump warned that efforts to resolve the spat between the world’s top two economies could continue until after next November’s US election, triggering a selloff in global markets.
When asked about his comments China’s foreign ministry said Beijing too had no timeline for ending the protracted trade war, where on-again off-again negotiations have destabilised markets and stoked geopolitical tensions.
“We will not set any time limit on when the deal will or will not be reached,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
“This agreement and these negotiations must be based on equality and mutual respect,” she told reporters at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
“If we are faced with the pressure of unilateralism, protectionism, and trade bullying, we will have no choice and must take resolute and decisive measures to defend our legitimate and lawful interests,”Hua added.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have become increasingly strained following the passage of a bill backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong last week.
The financial hub has been rocked by nearly six months of often violent unrest demanding greater autonomy, which Beijing has frequently blamed on foreign influence.
In response to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, China suspended US warship visits to the territory and said it imposed sanctions on American NGOs, though it has not released any details on what they entail.
On Tuesday, US lawmakers also voted overwhelmingly to pass a Uighur rights bill, which could impose sanctions against senior Chinese officials over the crackdown on mainly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang if Trump signs it into law.
Up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities are believed to be held in re-education camps, according to estimates cited by a United Nations panel in 2018.
After initially denying the camps’ existence, Beijing cast the facilities as “vocational education centres” where “students” learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.
China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday warned against enacting the Uighur rights bill saying “for all wrong actions and words… the proper price must be paid.”