US poised to extend tariffs to all Chinese imports if Trump-Xi meeting fails, hitting another US$260 billion in products

  • The tariffs would be announced in December and go into effect around the Lunar New Year in February, sources say
  • Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are set to meet on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires in November
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 4:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 8:53am

The US is preparing to announce by early December tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports if talks next month between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping fail to ease the trade war, three people familiar with the matter said.

An early-December announcement of a new product list would mean the effective date – after a 60-day public comment period – may coincide with China’s Lunar New Year holiday in early February. The list would apply to the imports that aren’t already covered by previous rounds of tariffs – which may be US$257 billion using last year’s import figures, according to two of the people.

US officials are preparing for such a scenario in case a planned Trump-Xi meeting yields no progress on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, according to two of the people, who declined to be identified to discuss internal deliberations. They cautioned that final decisions had not been made.

The move indicates that the Trump administration remains willing to escalate its trade war with China even as companies complain about the rising costs of tariffs and financial markets continue to be nervous about the global economic fallout.

China’s future rests on ‘mending fences with the United States’

Stocks in the US have erased 2018 gains partly on concern about an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The US this year has already imposed tariffs on US$250 billion in trade with China. Ten per cent tariffs on US$200 billion in imports that took effect in September are due to increase to 25 per cent on January 1. Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on the remaining goods imports from China, which last year were worth US$505 billion.

“We are in the middle of a pretty nasty dispute. We’re in a trade dispute – I want to use that word because it’s a nice, soft word – but we’re going to win,” Trump said on Saturday at an event in Indiana. “You know why? ’Cause we always win.”

A request for comment from the White House was not immediately answered.

Trade war forces firms to consider pulling out of US and China

As another option, the White House is also considering excluding trade from the meeting agenda but it is unlikely to cancel it altogether, according to two people familiar with the matter.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said a meeting between Trump and Xi at the November 30-December 1 summit was still in the planning stages.