Fears of a trade war have been rumbling since last month as President Donald Trump has threatened a series of tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, sparking tit-for-tat warnings from Beijing.

"The upshot is that the latest trade data suggest that both domestic and foreign demand held up well in March", Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report.

The GOP political leaders are especially concerned about the impact trade retaliation from China could have on US agriculture, which relies heavily on exports to China.

China's exports to the U.S. rose 14.8% in the first quarter from a year earlier, while imports rose 8.9%. "We hope that the United States will listen patiently to rational and pragmatic voices on the trade balance issue".

Sales of new energy vehicles, mainly comprising electric and hybrid vehicles, jumped by over 117% year on year to 68,000 units last month.

"We are pleased to stand together with this broad range of industries in order to demonstrate our shared concerns to Congress and the Trump administration over the possible imposition of tariffs that are already having a negative impact on our members", said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association.

The Chinese president added the government will follow through with a "scientific plan" to make important decisions and that the decision shows China's will to open up further to the outside world.

"He's going to get rid of a lot of taxes and tariffs", Trump said of Xi.

Mr Xi had pledged a "new phase of opening up" on Tuesday in a keynote address to the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan.

After Trump unveiled another set of planned tariffs last Friday, Xi this week struck a conciliatory note, promising to cut tariffs on cars - a key point of U.S. anger - and other imports, as well as further open up the economy.

Mr Trump clearly regarded the remarks as conciliatory, and said again on Thursday that it was a "good speech".

That produced a trade deficit of US$4.98 billion for the month, but such shortfalls are not uncommon early in the year, likely due to seasonal factors. "We put a US$50 billion tariff on, and then we put a US$100 billion tariff on".

"You know, I was saying it the other day because we're doing a tremendous amount of work in space".


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