by Vicki Needham · July 5, 2018
President Trump’s trade war with China officially gets underway Friday with tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, a move that Beijing has promised to reciprocate in the latest escalation between the world’s two largest economies.
Chinese officials on Thursday said they were prepared to respond with tariffs on $34 billion worth of American goods, raising serious concerns among industry leaders in the U.S. agricultural, manufacturing and technology sectors and increasing the odds of billions more in import taxes for both countries in the coming months.
The Customs and Border Protection’s website confirmed on Thursday that the new tariffs on Chinese goods will take affect Friday at 12:01 a.m. Eastern, when the U.S. targets 818 of China’s technology products, including auto parts, and aerospace and medical instruments.
China is expected to impose retaliatory tariffs on 545 high-value American exports, such as soybeans, seafood, SUVs and crude oil.
U.S. business groups, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and foreign leaders have pleaded with Trump to rethink his tariffs strategy, which has already led to billions in retaliatory duties from Mexico, Canada, the European Union and other countries as a result of the administration’s duties on steel and aluminum imports that were first imposed in late March.
Soybean farmers, along with most of the U.S. agriculture community, have been appealing to Trump to defuse the trade conflict with China, which imported 31 percent of U.S. soybeans last year, making it the world’s top purchaser.
“They have a sizeable feed industry that’s dependent on soybeans, the largest swine herd in the world, the largest global aquaculture industry, and are rapidly modernizing their poultry, egg, dairy, and beef industries,” said American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer. “They are a vital trading partner, and we need to continue to do business with China without the sting of these tariffs.”
The Trump administration is prepping another $16 billion worth of Chinese export tariffs after a public comment period and hearing scheduled for July 24. China is expected to respond with tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods like machinery and plastics.
Together, the two rounds — $34 billion and $16 billion — would comprise the $50 billion in tariffs that Trump announced in May, citing China’s alleged theft of intellectual property, forced technology transfer and other industrial policies that favor China’s domestic businesses and hurt U.S. firms.
After China announced its willingness to retaliate with a similar amount, Trump threatened tariffs of 10 percent on $400 billion more of Chinese products. Beijing said it would not hesitate to match those tariffs either.
“China is engaged in industrial policies and theft of intellectual property that merits a response, but across the business community we feel that tariffs are not the answer,” John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told CNBC on Tuesday. “We think trade works for the American economy and tariffs don’t.”
He said the better approach would be for the U.S. to work “with our allies to form a common front to push China into a direction of reform that will open up its markets and allow more progress to open trade with China.”
The Chamber of Commerce this week released a report measuring how tariffs are likely to affect each state’s export industries, with the overall message being that tariffs will hurt more than they will help.
Association of Equipment Manufacturers President Dennis Slater warned that the back and forth between China and the United States would damage American manufacturing and lead to job losses.
“These tariffs target the vital parts and components used in equipment manufacturing throughout the U.S.,” Slater said. “They also will drive up the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. and risk many of the 1.3 million good-paying manufacturing jobs our industry supports.”
He added that the trade war could cancel out previous gains from tax-code rewrite that Trump signed into law last year.
“Combining this with China’s promise to retaliate against U.S. products and agricultural commodities only further erodes the benefits of last year’s tax reform, hurting the entire U.S. economy,” Slater said.
Trump has taken an aggressive stance on trade, fulfilling a campaign promise. But in doing so he has alienated and angered longtime U.S. allies, many of which have imposed duties on American goods in response to Trump’s tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s global companies, called on China and the United States to ease tensions and take immediate steps to work through conflict at the World Trade Organization.
“The American business community is united in its belief that joint action, not unilateral escalation, is the best path to address important structural problems with China’s unfair trading behavior,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who added that many of his group’s members are “already feeling the impact of earlier tariffs, in the form of rising costs and operational disruptions.”
“We can expect further damage to the U.S. economy, workers, companies and consumers,” he said.
China and the United States have held talks about how to de-escalate the trade war, but no agreements were reached.
Tariffs have become Trump’s preferred negotiating tool when it comes to trade, an approach that he says will give the U.S. leverage and force countries to change their policies.
The president has said that the U.S. trade deficit is proof that the country is losing on the global economic stage.
“It is troubling that the administration continues to assume that the imposition of tariffs will convince China to resolve complex trade issues, and irresponsible to downplay the impact on American workers and businesses,” said Josh Kallmer, executive vice president for policy with the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies like Amazon and Intel. “The decision to impose tariffs on Chinese goods will harm American consumers and businesses without addressing discriminatory and systemic Chinese trade practices and policies.
The Hill · by Vicki Needham · July 5, 2018