China hints US blacklist imminent as threats to trade talks escalate

The country did not specify which companies would be affected but FedEx has been under scrutiny this year

Office buildings in Hong Kong's Central district are seen at night on November 28, 2019. Asian markets mostly fell November 28 as optimism over the China-US trade talks took a jolt after Donald Trump signed into law a bill supporting Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests, prompting an angry response from Beijing.

 / AFP / Nicolas ASFOURI
Powered by automated translation

Chinese state media said the government will soon publish a list of “unreliable entities” that could lead to sanctions against US companies, signalling that trade talks between the two nations are increasingly under threat from disputes over human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The Communist Party-backed Global Times said in a tweet early Tuesday that the list was being sped up in response to a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio requiring measures against Chinese officials involved in alleged abuses of Uighur Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang. Beijing has threatened to publish such a list of companies since May, after the US placed restrictions on Huawei Technologies.

A response from China on the Xinjiang issue that hits US companies would add another obstacle as the two countries struggle to finalise a phase-one deal to de-escalate the trade war. On Monday, US President Donald Trump said that legislation signed last week censuring China over the protests in Hong Kong had already complicated the talks.

Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin went further on Twitter, saying that US officials may face visa restrictions and US passport holders could be banned from entering the province.

China hasn’t specified which companies would be affected by the blacklist, though courier firm FedEx has been under particular scrutiny this year. A re-escalation of trade tensions also places more focus on a December 15 deadline for Trump to add yet more tariffs on Chinese imports.

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on Tuesday on the Xinjiang bill, which was passed by the Senate in September.