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Any trade war with the USA will only bring disaster to the world economy, Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said yesterday, as Beijing stepped up criticism of metal tariffs by Washington amid fears it could shatter global growth.

In 2017, trade volume between China and countries along the Belt and Road amounted to 7.4 trillion yuan (about 1.2 trillion USA dollars), surging 17.8 percent year on year, outpacing the 14.2-percent increase in China's total foreign trade last year, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on February 28.

China's commerce minister said Sunday: "China does not want a trade war, nor will it actively initiate a trade war".

Zhong blamed the trade imbalance in part on controls over USA high-tech exports to China, repeating a Chinese claim that Washington could narrow its trade deficit if it allowed Beijing to buy more "dual use" technology such as supercomputers and advanced materials with military applications.

"We are not only talking for now, we will continue to talk in the future", he said.

Mr Zhong said a panel of experts tasked with conducting a comparative study of differences in trade statistics between the two countries repeatedly found that the US' trade deficit with China was overestimated by about 20 per cent each year.

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China's persistently high trade surplus with the United States is the root of the tension, and Trump has said he plans to trim it by US$100 billion.

More than 150,000 buyers from home and overseas are expected at the event, he said.

After pressure from allies, the US has opened the way for more exemptions from tariffs of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium that US President Donald Trump set last week.

The U.S. control of high-tech exports to China also contributed to bilateral trade imbalance, Zhong said, quoting one U.S. research that estimated a 35-percent fall in the trade deficit with China if the United States relaxed export restrictions.

China's response came after a Bloomberg reporter asked if the country would consider retaliatory behavior following the tariffs.

Zhong also said he plans to meet with Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko to discuss trade and investment issues.