US-China trade war: Donald Trump says it’s ‘time to take a stand’ after tariff move

‘We have no choice. It’s been a long time. They’re hurting us,’ US president tells Fox News

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 3:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 3:37pm

US President Donald Trump continued to hit out at China days after announcing another round of tariffs, signalling the trade war will not end any time soon.

“It’s time to take a stand on China,” he said in an interview late Thursday with Fox News. “We have no choice. It’s been a long time. They’re hurting us.”

Trump’s biggest strike yet in a growing trade fight between the world’s biggest economies will see a 10 per cent duty applied to US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which could rise to 25 per cent next year. He also threatened duties on a further US$267 billion of Made-in-China goods, which would hit nearly all other consumer products including mobile phones, shoes and clothes.

The latest round of duties comes on top of a 25 per cent tariff already imposed on about US$50 billion in Chinese goods, which spurred counter-tariffs from Beijing. China plans to retaliate on Washington’s US$200 billion tariff round by slapping levies on US$60 billion of American goods.

Officials in Beijing worry Trump’s latest tariff salvoes mark a steady march towards a long-term competition that could thwart China’s rise. Trump’s latest comments and the ascendancy of China hawks within his administration will only compound such concerns.

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The Trump administration has not put a process in place for companies to get exemptions from the most recent tariffs it is imposing, unlike earlier rounds of the duties, four people familiar with the matter said.

The US has justified its decision by saying that it is giving companies more than three months to transition their supply chains away from China before the tariff rate increases, according to one of the sources.

A spokeswoman with the US Trade Representative’s office said there was no announcement at this time regarding an exclusion process for tariffs on the US$200 billion of goods.

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The decision is likely to put additional pressure on American companies that say Trump’s trade dispute with Beijing is increasing uncertainty and boosting costs. Industry groups including the National Retail Federation have been pushing the administration to spare firms and consumers from import tariffs.

“Companies cannot shift their supply chains on a dime. It takes months, if not years, to find new suppliers who can meet all of a retailer’s sourcing requirements,” according to the federation’s vice-president of supply chain and customs policy, Jonathan Gold. “These tariffs will unfairly punish US companies and ultimately US consumers.”

The administration argues that tariffs give the country leverage as it pushes China to reduce trade barriers and protect American firms from unfair practices, such as theft of intellectual property.

“We have a recent survey of our membership, and three quarters of our companies are going to be hurt by the US tariffs,” William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said on Friday.

“We’re seeing that – in terms of the supply chains, which are being so disrupted – that about a third of the companies are looking for new supply chains from the US, about a third of the companies are looking for new supply chains from China, and about a third of the companies are putting off investment decisions until they see the dust settle,” Zarit said.