Stephen B. Morton, Associated Press
FILE - In this Thursday, July, 5, 2018 photo, a jockey truck passes a stack of 40-foot China Shipping containers at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga. The United States and China launched what Beijing called the "biggest trade war in economic history" Friday, July 6, imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods amid a spiraling dispute over technology.

SALT LAKE CITY — The expansion of import and export tariffs between the United States and its largest international trading partner will not serve either nation well in the long-term, a senior Chinese diplomat said during a visit with top Utah leaders Tuesday.

"We do not think that imposing tariffs is a good choice to resolve trade disputes," said Xu Xueyuan, minister of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the U.S.

Speaking Tuesday to members of the media in the board room at the Utah State Capitol, she said that there is approximately $584 billion in trade between the two countries, with huge opportunities for increased commerce in many business sectors.

Responding to President Donald Trump's administration last week imposing 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods, with another $16 billion on the horizon later this month, Xueyuan said conducting a trade war would hurt the economic interests of both countries.

The Associated Press reported that the list of possible new tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese imports could escalate into a full-scale trade war. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proposed 10 percent tariffs Tuesday on a list of 6,031 Chinese product lines. In response, China has imposed similar tariffs on American products.

Speaking about America's $375 million trade deficit with China, Xueyuan offered an alternative to imposing more and more tariffs.

"We think the best way to work out solutions is through negotiation and dialogue," she said. "(A) better choice than imposing tariffs could be (for China) to import more from the United States."

She said creating a better balance of trade would help both countries prosper. Growing conflict of any kind between China and the United States will only work against the interests of each nation, she said.

"If a war erupts, whether hot or cold, it will hurt everybody," Xueyuan said. "There won't be winners from war, there will only be losers."

Xueyuan led a delegation of Chinese diplomatic officials visiting Utah in an effort to further relations between the world's most populous nation and the Beehive State. The group met with various state and local leaders as well as members of the local Chinese community on Tuesday. The group is scheduled to meet with Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday.

She said the delegation is interested in learning from the ideas of the people of Utah.

"We're here to hear thoughts from people of all walks of life, not just government officials," she said. "(We are interested in) your thoughts on the China-U.S. relationship and how the embassy can do a better job to help enhance this relationship."

Xueyuan said Utah has played a "leading role" in language learning through implementation of dual immersion programs that teach young students a second language, with Chinese among the most popular.

"When you learn a language, you will understand the culture and traditions behind this language," she said. "By learning the language, it brings the relationship between people closer to each other and also provides better job opportunities."

She said China is very interested in continuing to cultivate its ongoing relationship with Utah.

Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, was among the Utah lawmakers who met privately with the minister and the Chinese delegation. He said each side expressed a commitment to continue to work together for both countries' mutual benefit. He also said each side should work to resolve their trade issues.

"There is valuable perspective from the (Trump) administration about some of the problems we've had in the past," he said. "But we need to be really careful about the way we address that, make sure that we have an appropriate response given those concerns."

He noted that the Chinese delegation was aware of the state's frustration regarding the trade war and showed a willingness to work together to address this ongoing issue.

13 comments on this story

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said he hopes Utah can play a leading role in showing officials in Washington how to strengthen diplomatic, cultural and economic relationships through implementing "best practices" in the way the state handles its business with crucial trading partners like China.

"We can be an example that other states can look at as well as our federal government. Conversations are better than not having them," he said. "We had a constructive and collaborative conversation. It's longer-range hope that we are lowering barriers to trade amongst our trading partners."