Trump makes good on threat - $200 billion in new tariffs on China

Soybean prices have fallen dramatically in recent weeks.
Daniel Acker  Bloomberg

The United States has made a decision to impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China after efforts to negotiate a solution to the trade dispute failed to reach an agreement, senior administration officials said on Tuesday.

In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the new 10-percent tariffs were in response to what he called China's "retaliation and failure to change its practices".

Mr. Trump hit US$34-billion worth of Chinese imports with 25-per-cent tariffs starting last week, with another US$16-billion worth to be added shortly.

USA officials say they remain willing to bargain. They are meant to put pressure on China to stop stealing US companies' trade secrets and forcing them to hand over intellectual property to Chinese firms as a condition of doing business there.

The tariffs could take effect after public consultations end on August 30, according to a statement from the U.S. Trade Representative's office Tuesday. "Given China's likelihood of retaliation, it's also billions worth of new tariffs on American exporters".

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Tariff hikes are "hitting immediately the bottom line" of companies that rely on the free flow of trade across countries, said Mats Harborn, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

President Donald Trump has threatened to tax as much as $550 billion in Chinese products - an amount that exceeds America's total imports from China a year ago. That's why Trump can slap tariffs on them just because he feels like it. "Consumers, businesses and the American jobs dependent on trade are left in the crosshairs of an escalating global trade war".

"They were the ones who started everything by hurting us", the official said. "This new round of proposed tariffs takes the fight onto yet another level from which it is going to be hard for either side to make a graceful retreat", said Eswar Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division.

The move is a major escalation in a brewing trade war between the world's two largest economies.

The ministry released no further details about how it would spread the financial relief or whether the aid would cover the total cost of losses, but analysts said the move suggests China could significantly increase its support for industries that stand to be bled by the commercial battle. "Unfortunately, China has not changed its behaviour".

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