Explainer | US-China trade war: timeline of key dates and events since July 2018
- The US-China trade war began in July 2018, eventually leading to tariffs on some US$550 billion of Chinese goods and US$185 billion of US goods
- A phase-one trade deal was signed in January 2020, but China bought less than 60 per cent of the US exports it had committed to over the two years of the agreement
The US-China trade war began in July 2018 under the administration of then-US president Donald Trump, eventually leading to tariffs on about US$550 billion worth of Chinese goods and US$185 billion worth of US goods.
A phase-one trade deal between the two sides was signed in January 2020, but China would go on to buy less than 60 per cent of the US exports that it had committed to over the two years of the agreement.
06/07/2018: US-China trade war begins
US places 25 per cent duties on around US$34 billion worth of imports from China, including cars, hard disks and aircraft parts. China retaliates by imposing a 25 per cent tariff on 545 goods originating from the US worth US$34 billion, including agricultural products, automobiles and aquatic products.
23/08/2018: US imposes 25 per cent tariffs on a further US$16 billion worth of Chinese goods
Washington imposes 25 per cent tariffs on another US$16 billion of Chinese goods, including iron and steel products, electrical machinery, railway products, instruments and apparatus. China responds by applying 25 per cent tariffs on US$16 billion of US goods, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon and orange juice.
24/09/2018: US places tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports, China responds
US places 10 per cent taxes on US$200 billion of Chinese imports. China responds by placing customs duties on US$60 billion worth of US goods.
01/12/2018: Xi, Trump call a truce in the trade war at the G20 summit
Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump agree to a 90-day trade truce to allow for further talks to address US concerns after China committed to buying a “very substantial” amount of American exports.
10/05/2019: US increases tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods
After trade negotiations break down, the US increases tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. China responds by announcing that it will increase tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US goods from June 1.
US-China trade war timeline since July 2018
|06/07/2018||US-China trade war begins as US imposes 25 per cent tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports|
|06/07/2018||China retaliates by imposing 25 per cent tariffs on 545 goods originating from the US worth US$34 billion|
|23/08/2018||Washington imposes 25 per cent tariffs on a further US$16 billion worth of Chinese goods|
|23/08/2018||China responds by applying 25 per cent tariffs on US$16 billion worth of US goods|
|24/09/2018||US places 10 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports|
|24/09/2018||China responds by placing customs duties on US$60 billion worth of US goods|
|01/12/2018||Xi Jinping and US counterpart Donald Trump call a truce in the trade war at the G20 summit in Argentina|
|10/05/2019||After trade negotiations break down, US increases tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, from 10 to 25 per cent|
|15/05/2019||US Department of Commerce announces the addition of Huawei to its “entity list”|
|31/05/2019||China announces plans to establish its own “unreliable entity list”|
|01/06/2019||China increases tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US products|
|29/06/2019||Xi Jinping and Donald Trump again agree to a trade war truce, this time at the G20 summit in Japan|
|05/08/2019||US designates China as a “currency manipulator”|
|13/08/2019||US announces that various planned levies on US$455 billion worth of Chinese products have either been delayed or removed|
|23/08/2019||China announces planned tariffs of 5 and 10 per cent on US$75 billion worth of US goods|
|01/09/2019||US tariffs on more than US$125 billion worth of Chinese imports begin as expected|
|11/09/2019||US agrees to briefly delay new tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods|
|11/10/2019||US announces that it will delay a planned tariff increase of 25 to 30 per cent on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods|
|15/01/2020||China and the US sign the phase-one trade deal|
|14/02/2020||China halves additional tariffs on US$75 billion worth of American products imposed in 2019|
|12/05/2020||China announces a second batch of trade-war-tariff exemptions covering 79 American products|
|14/05/2020||China allows imports of barley and blueberries from the US|
|01/09/2020||Dozens of US imports from China are granted short extensions to previous tariff exemptions|
|14/09/2020||US customs agency issues “withhold release orders” banning cotton, apparel, hair products and computer parts from four Xinjiang companies|
|15/09/2020||China decides to exempt additional tariffs on a batch of 16 US products for another year|
|02/12/2020||US government says it will begin to block the import of all cotton products made by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC)|
|02/12/2020||US president-elect Joe Biden tells The New York Times he will not make any “immediate moves” to lift trade war tariffs|
|18/02/2021||US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that tariffs on China will be “kept in place”|
|27/05/2021||Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai speak in the first trade talks since August 2020|
|02/06/2021||Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He holds a “candid” exchange on issues of concern with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen|
|10/06/2021||Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao speaks with his American counterpart Gina Raimondo|
|15/07/2021||US says it has no intention to resume highest-level bilateral forum|
|19/07/2021||Trade deal didn’t address "fundamental problems", Yellen says|
|04/10/2021||USTR says that the Biden administration will "keep open the potential for additional exclusion processes, as some tariffs are causing significant commercial harm to US interests"|
|08/10/2021||Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai speak by telephone|
|01/11/2021||US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the United States expects China to meet its commitments under the phase-one trade deal|
|04/11/2021||Sinopec, China’s state-owned oil giant, signs a contract with the US Venture Global LNG to buy 4 million tonnes of LNG annually for 20 years|
|09/11/2021||US extends ban that prohibits American investments in Chinese companies that have alleged ties with the Chinese military|
|16/11/2021||Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden hold their first video call|
|19/01/2022||US President Joe Biden says he won’t lift tariffs on Chinese imports since Beijing has not abided by the phase-one trade deal|
|26/01/2022||WTO authorises China to impose US$645 million of compensatory tariffs against the US after a decade-long case into alleged subsidies|
|08/02/2022||Report says China bought only 57 per cent of the US exports it committed to purchase under the phase-one trade deal|
|23/03/2022||US reinstates tariff exemptions on more than 350 Chinese imports|
|22/04/2022||US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says lifting tariffs on certain Chinese goods could help alleviate the high inflation|
|03/05/2022||US begins statutory process that could ultimately end up removing tariffs on Chinese goods|
|10/05/2022||Joe Biden says that discussions are ongoing about potentially dropping trade tariffs on China that were imposed by his predecessor|
|18/06/2022||Joe Biden said he’ll be talking to Xi Jinping 'soon' and is weighing possible action on US tariffs on Chinese goods that were imposed by the Trump administration|
|21/06/2022||Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act takes effect|
|05/07/2022||China Vice-Premier Liu He holds a 'pragmatic and frank' exchange on issues of concern with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen|
|05/07/2022||More than 400 requests to keep tariffs in place on Chinese goods are submitted to the US Trade Representative’s office|
15/05/2019: US adds Huawei to ‘entity list’
US Department of Commerce announces the addition of Huawei Technologies Co. to its “entity list”, which effectively bans US companies from selling to the Chinese telecommunications company without approval.
31/05/2019: China announces plans to establish ‘unreliable entity list’
The Ministry of Commerce says that it will blacklist foreign businesses or individuals that violate market rules and contractual obligations, or that take “discriminatory measures” to hurt Chinese business’ rights and interests, as well as national security and interests.
01/06/2019: China increases tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US products
Ministry of Finance says the move, with duties to rise to “25, 20 and 10 per cent”, is a response to “unilateralism and trade protectionism”.
29/06/2019” Xi, Trump again agree to a trade war truce at G20 summit in Japan
Donald Trump says the outcome is “better than expected”, with China saying the US agreed not to impose any further tariffs on Chinese goods.
05/08/2019: US designates China a ‘currency manipulator’
The US quickly labels China after the yuan falls below the key threshold of 7 to the US dollar, a level the PBOC had previously defended. It marks the yuan’s first dip below the psychologically important level since 2008.
13/08/2019: US announces various planned levies have either been delayed or removed
Donald Trump announces that planned levies on many of the US$300 billion worth of Chinese products threatened to start in September 2019 have either been delayed or removed, while levies of 10 per cent on US$155 billion worth of products such as phones, laptop computers and video game consoles will be delayed until December 15.
23/08/2019: China announces fresh tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US products
China announces tariffs of 5 and 10 per cent on US$75 billion worth of US goods from September 1 to December 15. China also confirms that it will reinstate tariffs on US cars and car parts from December 15.
01/09/2019: US tariffs on more than US$125 billion worth of Chinese imports begin as expected
Research from Oxford Economics suggests that new US tariffs on China – including the knock-on effect on sentiment – would reduce Chinese growth by about 0.2 percentage points in 2019 and a further 0.3 percentage points the next year. It cut its 2020 growth estimate to 5.7 per cent, well below the 6.0 per cent minimum growth rate set by the government for this year.
11/09/2019: US agrees to briefly delay new tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods
China announces that it will offer exemptions to 16 types of US imports from additional tariffs, which include products such as pesticides, animal feeds, lubricants and cancer drugs. Donald Trump agrees to delay new tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods from October 1-15 as a goodwill gesture to avoid the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
11/10/2019: Trump says ‘substantial phase-one deal’ reached, new tariffs delayed
US President Donald Trump says his negotiators have reached a “substantial phase-one deal” that will delay the implementation of more US tariffs on Chinese imports after two days of high-level trade negotiations that aimed to move the two countries closer to a conclusion of a bruising bilateral trade war.
15/01/2020: China, US sign the phase-one trade deal
With provisions covering purchase commitments, financial market access, intellectual property protection and enforcement, the phase-one trade deal is finalised by US President Donald Trump and China’s chief trade negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He.
14/02/2020: China halves additional tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US products
China halves additional tariffs on US$75 billion of American products imposed in 2019, including automotive and agricultural goods such as pork, chicken, beef and soybeans, chemicals, crude oil, whiskey and seafood. China also lifts an import ban on live poultry products from the US.
12/05/2020: China announces a second batch of trade-war-tariff exemptions
There are 79 products in total on the list, including rare earth mineral ores, aircraft radar equipment, semiconductor parts, medical disinfectants, and a range of precious metals, chemical and petrochemical products.
14/05/2020: China allows imports of barley and blueberries from the US
China’s moves to permit further agricultural imports from the United States are viewed as a step towards meeting the nation’s phase-one trade deal commitments.
01/09/2020: Dozens of US imports from China are granted short extensions
Disposable face masks, respirators, Bluetooth tracking devices and musical instruments are among the Chinese exports granted a new short-term exemption to trade war tariffs by the United States.
14/09/2020: US issues restrictions on import of Xinjiang cotton and apparel products
The US government announces new restrictions on the import of products, especially cotton and apparel, from China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, citing concerns over the alleged use of forced labour there.
15/09/2020: Beijing extends exemptions on 16 US products for another year
China decides to exempt tariffs on a batch of 16 US products, including fish meal, lubricants and cancer medications, for another year, marking a small concession in a much broader trade war with the United States.
02/12/2020: US to block import of cotton goods produced by China’s leading supplier in Xinjiang
Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), responsible for a third of China’s cotton production, is accused of widespread use of forced labour.
02/12/2020 US president-elect Biden tells says he will not make any ‘immediate moves’ to lift tariffs
In an interview with The New York Times, US President-elect Joe Biden says the “best China strategy” is to get all traditional US allies in Asia and Europe “on the same page”, and he says this is to be his major priority “in the opening weeks” of his presidency.
18/02/2021 US Treasury Secretary Yellen says that tariffs on China will be ‘kept in place’
“For the moment, we have kept the tariffs in place that were put in by the Trump administration … and we’ll evaluate going forward what we think is appropriate,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen tells CNBC, adding that Washington expects Beijing to adhere to its commitments on trade.
27/05/2021: Liu He, Katherine Tai speak in the first trade talks since August 2020
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai speak by phone, with Beijing stressing the importance of developing bilateral trade after a “candid and constructive” exchange.
02/06/2021: Liu holds ‘candid’ exchange on issues of concern with Yellen
Both sides agree that China-US economic relations are “very important”, and discussions include the macro economic situation, as well as bilateral and multilateral cooperation “in an attitude of equality and mutual respect”.
10/06/2021: Chinese commerce minister speaks with American counterpart
A further “candid and pragmatic exchange of views” takes place between China and the United States, this time between Commerce Minister Wang Wentao and his American counterpart, Gina Raimondo.
15/07/2021: US does not intend to resume the highest-level bilateral forum
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has no intention of resuming the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) mechanism.
19/07/2021: Trade deal doesn’t address ‘fundamental problems’, Yellen says
“My own personal view is that tariffs were not put in place on China in a way that was very thoughtful,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen tells The New York Times.
04/10/2021: US to ‘keep open potential for additional exclusion processes’
Analysts say factories and industries in China will benefit from the Biden administration’s “targeted tariff-exclusion process”, but US policy is still more focused on supporting American companies than it is on strengthening bilateral trade.
08/10/2021: China pushes US to cancel tariffs
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai speak by telephone in a meeting that Washington characterises as a “test” of whether direct engagement will help address its concerns about Beijing’s trade practices.
01/11/2021: ‘Reciprocal’ lowering of trade tariffs could ease inflation, Yellen says
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that tariffs tend to boost domestic prices and raise costs for consumers and for firms from inputs such as aluminium and steel, which means lowering tariffs would have a “disinflationary” effect.
04/11/2021: US-China LNG deal unlikely to smooth over trade issues
Sinopec, China’s state-owned oil giant, signs a contract with the US Venture Global LNG to buy 4 million tonnes of LNG annually for 20 years.
16/11/2021: Xi Jinping urges Joe Biden to put the US’ China policy back on track
Statements released by both sides after a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden – which lasted more than 3½ hours – describe it as a candid exchange, with Beijing saying it had been effective in improving mutual understanding.
19/01/2022: Biden says he won’t lift tariffs on Chinese imports
“I’d like to be able to be in a position where I can say they’re meeting the commitments, more than the commitments, to be able to lift something, but we’re not there yet,” US President Joe Biden says.
26/01/2022: China has right to impose tariffs on US$645 million of US products
The World Trade Organization (WTO) authorises China to impose US$645 million of compensatory tariffs against the United States in a ruling expected to receive a cool reception in Washington.
08/02/2022: US-China trade deal a ‘historic failure’
Report says China bought only 57 per cent of the US exports that it committed to purchase under the phase-one trade deal.
23/03/2022: US reinstates tariff exemptions on more than 350 Chinese imports
The move applies to 352 products on which Washington first imposed levies in 2018, when then-president Donald Trump started a trade war with Beijing.
22/04/2022: ‘We’re looking at’ tariff cuts on some Chinese imports
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says lifting tariffs on certain Chinese goods could help alleviate the high inflation.
03/05/2022: US looking at lifting tariffs on Chinese goods
The notification, part of a legal requirement to review the tariffs four years after they were first put into place, puts the burden on US businesses benefiting from those tariffs to speak out and say that they want the policy to continue, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) says.
10/05/2022: Biden weighs cuts to Trump’s China tariffs as inflation roars
“We’re discussing that right now,” US President Joe Biden said. “I’m telling you, we’re discussing it, and no decision has been made on it.”
11/05/2022: China implores US to drop tariffs
“The data indicates that the trade war does nobody any good. It is time for the US government to reconsider and remove the tariffs as soon as possible,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian.
18/05/2022: Yellen confirms she is pressing Biden for some China tariff cuts
“Some of them, to me, seem as though they impose more harm on consumers and businesses and aren’t very strategic in the sense of addressing real issues we have with China,” said US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
24/05/2022: US keeping ‘eye on the ball’ on China tariffs, removal must be ‘strategic’
“With respect to the tariffs, our approach as with everything in this relationship, is to be strategic,” said US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
27/05/2022: US extends Chinese surgical mask tariff exemption
The US government announced that it would extend for six months its tariff exclusions for surgical masks and other Chinese products that help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
20/06/2022: China, US urged to ‘start small’ as Biden ponders trade tariff rollback
“I would just urge my Chinese friends no matter what we do, but particularly if the United States goes ahead and rolls back some tariffs, that China responds in kind even for its own reasons,” said former acting deputy US trade representative Wendy Cutler.
21/06/2022: Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act takes effect
The sweeping ban creates a “rebuttable presumption” that any materials produced in Xinjiang are at risk of being tainted with forced labour – a “guilty-until-proven-innocent” principle that effectively inverts current US customs laws related to forced labour.
22/06/2022: China tariffs are ‘significant’ leverage
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that she views tariffs on Chinese goods as “a significant piece of leverage” in the US-China trade relationship and removing them was likely to have a limited effect on controlling short-term inflation.
05/07/2022: Top economic officials from China and US talk
In their first call since October, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He was said to have had a “pragmatic and frank” exchange with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on economic and tariff issues, as well as the importance of stabilising the global industrial and supply chains, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
05/07/2022: US receive over 400 requests to keep China tariffs
The requests came as the Office of the United States Trade Representative was conducting a four-year statutory review of the Trump-era tariffs.