US-China trade war: All stories

US finalises next China tariff list targeting another US$16 billion in imports

Customs will begin collecting the new duties on 279 product lines, down from 284 items on the initial list, as of August 23

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2018, 5:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2018, 5:28pm

The US government published a list of more Chinese products to be taxed as part of a trade war President Donald Trump started on July 6 to force Beijing to address a record trade imbalance and give US companies easier access to the country’s market.

The latest move by the Office of the US Trade Representative raises the value of Chinese imports facing punitive tariffs to US$50 billion from US$34 billion. The list of 279 additional items includes synthetic plastics and other industrial compounds, finished metal products such as bridge sections, pillars and beams, as well as machine parts, integrated circuits, tractors and agricultural equipment.

The products will be hit with an additional 25 per cent duty starting August 23, the same levy placed on the first tranche of targeted products.

China, which immediately countered USTR’s July 6 move with punitive tariffs on an equivalent amount of US imports, has pledged to match additional tariffs on Chinese goods that Trump has been threatening.

Last week, China’s Ministry of Finance said it would impose tariffs ranging from 5 to 25 per cent on an additional US$60 billion worth of American products, announcing the move in response to Trump’s threat on July 11 to slap duties on US$200 billion of Chinese products, and to raise those tariffs from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

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The two sides appear far from a resolution.

During high-level talks in May and June with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, China’s Vice-Premier Liu He offered to import more US soybeans and other products to draw down China’s trade surplus. However, Trump has insisted on better access to Chinese markets for US companies and an end to what the White House calls forced technology transfers.

Recent efforts to get negotiations back on track have faltered, according to sources in Beijing and Washington.

“The Chinese have indicated to me that they’ve been willing to offer compromises since before the July 6 initial tariff application,” Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, told the South China Morning Post.

“The problem isn’t that China won’t make concessions, but what are the concessions going to get them? If the concessions are going to get them another presidential rejection, why the hell would they do that?”

Trump’s use of tariffs to extract concessions from Beijing has been divisive in the US. The US Chamber of Commerce and many lawmakers have bemoaned the impact the trade war is having on manufacturers using products bought from China while others see Trump’s aggressive tactics as the only way to get Beijing to back down on barriers to Chinese markets.

In his opening remarks at a two-day USTR hearing in Washington last month, Representative Kevin Cramer, a Republican of North Dakota, defended Trump’s trade policy.

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“After years of unsuccessful US-China dialogue, the United States is taking action to confront China over its state-led, market-distorting policy and practices,” Cramer said, adding that it was the “negligence of previous administrations” that had caused the United States’ current trade disadvantage.

“It is past time we take strong, defensive action to protect America’s lead in technology and innovation” he said.