Trump's tariffs on $200 bn of Chinese imports kick in

AFP , Monday 24 Sep 2018

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping
US President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Donald Trump's tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese imports took effect Monday, with Beijing accusing Washington of "economic intimidation" as the standoff between the world's top two economies clouds the global outlook.

The latest volley against Beijing brings the amount of goods hit by duties to more than $250 billion, roughly half of China's US exports, with American consumers set to increasingly feel the pain.

Trump has hit 12 percent of total US imports this year alone.

Defiant in the face of increasing fears about the impact to the US economy, Trump has threatened to hit all imports from China if it refuses to change policies he says harm US industry, particularly the theft of American technology.

"These practices plainly constitute a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy," he said in announcing the tariffs last week.

Beijing fired back Monday, accusing the US of making "false accusations" and using "increasing tariffs and other means of economic intimidation in an attempt to force its own interests on China by way of extreme pressure".

The charges came in a white paper published by China's cabinet, the State Council, and claimed the US had turned toward "unilateralism, protectionism and economic hegemonism" as Trump pursues his "America First" agenda.

Talks cancelled 

"We are going to win it," Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of the trade war on "Fox News Sunday".

"We're going to get an outcome which forces China to behave in a way that if you want to be a power -- a global power -- transparency, rule of law, you don't steal intellectual property."

Beijing's retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion in American goods were set to go into effect soon after the US action, the finance ministry announced last week.

China targeted 5,200 US goods with five to 10 percent tariffs, including big ticket items such as liquefied natural gas, lumber and electronics, as well as peppermint oil, pig hides and condoms.

It leaves Beijing hitting $110 billion worth of US goods, nearly everything China buys from the United States.

But Trump warned he could ramp up to "phase three", with tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports, or all the goods the US buys from China.

Hopes for talks to resolve the issue appeared to have been dealt a blow as The Wall Street Journal reported Beijing cancelled the visit of a negotiating team expected September 27-28 in Washington.

"China's door is always open for negotiations," the state council's white paper said, but added they "cannot be carried out under the threat of a big tariff stick, nor at the expense of China's right to development."

Previous talks in late August saw little progress.

The International Monetary Fund has warned about the potential for "significant economic costs", including slower growth, while Fitch Ratings has cut its growth estimates for China and the world for 2019.

"Protectionist US trade policies have now reached the point where they are materially affecting what remains a strong global growth outlook," the agency said in a report Friday.

The latest batch of Chinese imports to be hit will face 10 percent tariffs through the end of the year, and then the rate will jump to 25 percent.

A swathe of products are on the hit list, including Chinese-made voice data receivers, computer memory modules, automatic data processors, and accessories for office equipment such as copiers and banknote dispensers -- instantly making widely used goods more expensive.

Beijing strikes back 

However, following complaints from thousands of US firms -- including powerhouses like Apple and Walmart -- 300 product lines were dropped from the target list.

The products spared include smartwatches and Bluetooth devices like the iPhone and Fitbit, child safety products such as high chairs, car seats and playpens, and certain health-and-safety products such as bicycle helmets, US officials said.

Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, also warned of the "detrimental impact" to consumers if tariffs were imposed on a number of products, but many of those, like handbags, suitcases, dog food and dog leashes, remained on the final list.

China also scheduled a bump in tariff rates for its targeted $60 billion of US goods for the end of the year, but it is running out of options to even the score on Trump's threatened third wave of tariffs.

After accusing the US of launching the "largest trade war in economic history", analysts worry Beijing could shift to threatened "qualitative" retaliatory measures, such as damaging US firms in China or restricting the export of crucial items.

The spiralling trade fight adds to the growing areas of friction between the rival powers.

This week the US sanctioned a Chinese military procurement organisation, drawing a sharp protest from Beijing and a decision to postpone planned military talks.

The two are also at odds over Beijing's wooing of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, treatment of religious groups and claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Short link: