China to slap tariffs up to 25 per cent on US$60 billion of US goods

The move comes in reaction to President Donald Trump’s escalation of the US-China trade dispute

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 8:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 August, 2018, 4:56am

China hit back at US President Donald Trump on Friday, saying it would impose tariffs ranging from 5 to 25 per cent on US$60 billion worth of American products.

The Ministry of Finance said in a statement that the retaliatory measures were in response to the latest US 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.

The ministry also said the US measures violated World Trade Organisation rules and damaged China’s interests.

“The US has repeatedly betrayed the consensus reached by negotiations, and accelerated the trade war unilaterally again. It has seriously violated the principles of the World Trade Organisation,” the statement said.

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The White House condemned the news of further tariffs, despite the fact that the US administration announced this week that it was considering increasing its own proposed duties on US$200 billion of Chinese imports, raising the tariff from 10 to 25 per cent.

“Instead of retaliating, China should address the long-standing concerns about its unfair trading practices, many of which are laid out in USTR’s 301 report,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Friday morning.

The US trade representative’s 301 report refers to the investigation into what the administration considers unfair trade practices by China, particularly in the area of technology transfer.

Washington has vowed to take punitive measures to stop Beijing’s Made in China 2025 industrial policy supporting domestic companies’ development of strategic advanced technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence.

On Wednesday, senior administration officials sought to frame the US move towards higher tariffs as a tool with which “to encourage China to change its actions.” Beijing has since lambasted such moves as “threats.”

Speaking at a press conference on Friday in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “The Chinese side calls on the US to return to rationality, and eradicate its mistakes to create the right conditions for resolving the problem.”

China-US trade negotiations hamstrung by mutual ‘deep mistrust’

This week's tariff escalation suggests that talks between the countries' trade officials have yet to lead to any meaningful breakthroughs. Sources in Washington and Beijing with knowledge of the matter told the South China Morning Post that unofficial discussions resumed last week, but that progress had been hampered by mistrust on both sides.

A senior US administration official said on Wednesday that trade officials were in ongoing contact with their Chinese counterparts, but that these communications had not yet led to direct negotiation.

“There are conversations about whether or not we’re going to be able to have a fruitful negotiation,” the official told reporters in a background briefing. “We are trying to figure out whether the conditions present themselves for a specific engagement between the two sides.”

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Sunny Wang, executive board member of the China General Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of Chinese enterprises in the US, said the new developments demonstrated that a dialogue on the governmental level alone was not enough.

“It's the businesses that suffer a lot, whether they're from the US side or from the China side,” Wang said.

“I would like to encourage more involvement across industry from both countries,” he said, adding that any meetings between business figures must happen without preconditions.

The US Chamber of Commerce, a Washington-based lobbying organisation representing millions of US businesses, also spoke out against the escalating trade confrontation.

“As each side continues to ratchet up tariffs, hardworking Americans continue to suffer from the side effects of this brewing trade war,” the president of the Chamber's China Centre, Jeremie Waterman, said in a statement on Friday. “The US and China must get back to the negotiating table to find solutions to unfair Chinese trade and industrial policies as well as to avoid inflicting self-harm to US industries.”