China ‘ready to hit back’ at Donald Trump’s tariffs

US protectionist trade action will be met with an immediate response, Beijing warns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 8:46pm

China will not shy away from hitting back swiftly at US trade action, Chinese officials and analysts warned on Friday, just hours before Washington announced plans to impose hefty American tariffs on billions worth of Chinese products.

After a week dominated by the US-North Korean summit in Singapore, diplomatic attention refocused on trade tensions between China and the United States, with reports that US President Donald Trump had approved the imposition of 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The Office of the US Trade Representative confirmed the move about 8.30pm Chinese time, with the release of the final list of affected products.

China’s foreign ministry had earlier said it was ready to take immediate retaliatory action.

“We want to reiterate that, if the US takes unilateral and protectionist actions which hurt China’s interests we will lose no time to respond and to take necessary measures to defend our own rights,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday.

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China has warned that all agreements reached during previous trade talks, including huge purchases of US agricultural and energy products, will be scrapped if the US goes ahead with the tariffs and other trade measures.

In a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped Washington could handle sensitive issues such as trade with caution to avoid turmoil in bilateral ties.

He Weiwen, former economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese consulate in New York and San Francisco, said that by waving the stick of trade sanctions, Washington was trying to pressure Beijing into giving more concessions while checking the rise of China in technology.

Apart from tariff threats, the US has launched a number of “Section 301” investigations against China over the years, looking into intellectual property protection, market access and industrial subsidies. In some cases, both countries exchanged retaliation lists but avoided a trade war at the last minute.

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But this time, He said, the inconsistency of the US administration could mean several rounds of small-scale retaliation and talks.

“Purchases of US goods will not bring the end to the confrontation. The US views China as a strategic competitor and is wary of a potential challenge to US technology. We will face a complicated and arduous game as the US tries to check the rise of China,” he said.

The Trump administration is also working on measures to tighten export controls and restrict China’s takeover of US sensitive technology, measures that are scheduled to be unveiled by the end of the month.

Lu Xiang, a US specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the world was facing the most uncertain economic times since the cold war.

“If the USA becomes the Unpredictable States of America, it will be further alienated which would lead to an overhaul of the global order,” Lu said.

“But no matter how inconsistent Trump is, China is still open to discussion and yet ready to hit back any aggressive action.”