Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan has suggested that Beijing may retaliate if Washington goes ahead with a plan to impose high tariffs on imported steel and other products.
China said Sunday that it would not initiate a trade war with the United States, but vowed to defend its national interests in the face of growing American protectionism. China has repeatedly vowed to defend its "legitimate rights and interests" if targeted by US trade actions.
Zhong said US official trade deficit figures had been over-estimated by about 20 percent, and in any case would be a lot lower if the United States relaxed export restrictions on some high-tech goods.
Diplomatic and USA business sources say the United States has frozen a formal mechanism for talks on commercial disputes with China because it is not satisfied Beijing has met its promises to ease market restrictions.
This could be further cut by 35 per cent if the U.S. lifts the ban on high-tech exports to China, he added.
As China's exports surged in February its monthly surplus with the United States widened from a year earlier to $20.96 billion, according to data from the customs bureau.
"We are still in talks, and we are sure that both sides will keep talking for the next step", he said.
"We are not only talking for now, we will continue to talk in the future", he said.
The CIIE is a public platform for global trade development, he said.
US President Donald Trump this week delivered on his campaign promises to get tough on trade by imposing tariffs of 25 per cent and 10 per cent on steel and aluminium imports, respectively.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull heralded his nation's exemption last Saturday morning following a phone call with Trump, which he described as "a very good and productive discussion".
China has steadily cut such tariffs from as high as 220% in the 1980s to 25% in 2006 - the rate it has now - as part of obligations under the World Trade Organization.