China hits back at Trump with retaliatory tariffs on 128 US imports, worth US$3 billion a year

US fruit and pork are among products targeted by Beijing with tariffs of up to 25 per cent

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2018, 8:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2018, 2:53pm

China on Monday imposed tariffs of up to 25 per cent on 128 US imports worth US$3 billion a year, including fruits and pork, in retaliation to US duties on steel and aluminium, fuelling fears of a trade war.

Beijing’s move, which the Xinhua news agency said was decided by the custom tariffs commission of the State Council, follows weeks of heated rhetoric and threats between the world’s two biggest economies.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against China’s massive trade surplus over the United States, promising during the US election campaign to slash the US deficit.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said it was suspending its obligations to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to reduce tariffs on 120 US goods, including fruit. The tariff on the products will be raised to 15 per cent.

Another eight products, including pork, will now be subject to tariffs of 25 per cent, it said, with the measures effective from April 2.

Beijing had warned last month that it was considering the tariffs of 15 per cent and 25 per cent on a range of products that also include wine, nuts and aluminium scrap. The tariffs came into force on Monday, Xinhua said, citing a finance ministry statement.

The levies are in response to tariffs of 10 per cent on aluminium and 25 per cent on steel that have also angered US allies.

Trump, however, has temporarily suspended the tariffs for the European Union as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.

The US leader has also unveiled plans to impose new tariffs on some US$60 billion of Chinese imports over the “theft” of intellectual property.

China has called on the United States to stop its “economic intimidation” and warned it was ready to hit back.

But Beijing has so far held fire against major agricultural products such as soybeans or major industries such as aerospace giant Boeing – items that state-run daily Global Times suggests should be targeted.

The nationalistic newspaper said in an editorial last week that China has “nearly completed its list of retaliatory tariffs on US products and will release it soon.”

“The list will involve major Chinese imports from the US,” the newspaper wrote, without saying which items were on the document.

“This will deal a heavy blow to Washington that aggressively wields the stick of trade war and will make the US pay a price for its radical trade policy toward China,” the Global Times wrote.

Despite the rhetoric, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday suggested the new measures on intellectual property were a “prelude to a set of negotiations”.

The United States ran a US$375.2 billion trading deficit with China last year.

But the Global Times, without revealing sources, said the United States had made “some unreasonable demands in an attempt to coerce China into a compromise.

“This was naive. With strong trading power, China held its ground.”

Additional reporting by Reuters