The Trump administration raised the stakes in its trade dispute with China on Tuesday, saying it would slap 10 percent tariffs on an extra $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
FILE PHOTO: A worker helps load steel bars onto a truck at warehouse of the Baifeng Iron and Steel Corporation in Tangshan, Hebei province, China August 3, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo
The news sent stocks tumbling, with China’s markets leading the declines, and prompted a senior Chinese commerce ministry official to warn that the United States was harming the global trade order.
U.S. officials released a list of thousands of Chinese imports the administration wants to hit with the new tariffs, including hundreds of food products as well as tobacco, chemicals, coal, steel and aluminum.
It also includes consumer goods ranging from car tires, furniture, wood products, handbags and suitcases, to dog and cat food, baseball gloves, carpets, doors, bicycles, skis, golf bags, toilet paper and beauty products.
“For over a year, the Trump administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in announcing the proposed tariffs.
China says plans by U.S. for additional tariffs completely unacceptable
“Rather than address our legitimate concerns, China has begun to retaliate against U.S. products … There is no justification for such action,” he said in a statement.
Last week, Washington imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, and Beijing responded immediately with matching tariffs on the same amount of U.S. exports to China.
Investors fear an escalating trade war between the world’s two biggest economies could hit global growth.
In financial markets, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.5 percent, while the main indexes in Hong Kong and Shanghai fell more than 2 percent.
S&P 500 and Dow futures dropped around 1 percent, pointing to a weak opening on Wall Street later on Wednesday.
The onshore yuan tracked its offshore counterpart lower with traders closely watching the key 6.7 per dollar level as pressure mounted on the currency.
Shipping containers are seen at a port in Shanghai, China July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song
President Donald Trump has said he may ultimately impose tariffs on more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods – roughly the total amount of U.S. imports from China last year.
The new list published on Tuesday targets many more consumer goods than those covered under the tariffs imposed last week, raising the direct threat to consumers and retail firms.
The tariffs will not be imposed until after a two-month period of public comment on the proposed list, but some U.S. business groups and senior lawmakers were quick to criticize the move.
‘TARIFFS ARE TAXES’
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a senior member of Trump’s Republican Party, said the announcement “appears reckless and is not a targeted approach.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has supported Trump’s domestic tax cuts and efforts to reduce regulation of businesses, but it has been critical of Trump’s aggressive tariff policies.
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“Tariffs are taxes, plain and simple. Imposing taxes on another $200 billion worth of products will raise the costs of every day goods for American families, farmers, ranchers, workers, and job creators. It will also result in retaliatory tariffs, further hurting American workers,” a Chamber spokeswoman said.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association, a lobby group representing the largest U.S. retailers, said: “The president has broken his promise to bring ‘maximum pain on China, minimum pain on consumers.’”
“American families are the ones being punished. Consumers, businesses and the American jobs dependent on trade, are left in the crosshairs of an escalating global trade war,” said Hun Quach, the head of international trade policy for the group.
Louis Kuijs, Hong Kong-based Head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics, said while he expects China to strongly condemn the U.S. moves, its policy response is likely to be limited for now.
“In part because they have only limited ammunition and in part because it’s still early in the process on the U.S. side,” Kuijs said.
In Beijing, Li Chenggang, assistant minister at China’s Commerce Ministry, said that the latest U.S. proposals would hurt both countries and pointed to declines in Chinese export growth and overseas investment to the United States in the first half of this year.
“It looks like the U.S. just took the scale of the trade frictions to another level,” Li said at a forum in Beijing. “Right now, world trade is relatively chaotic. We believe the U.S. measures interfere with economic globalization and damage the world economic order.”
Although it was not a direct reaction to the new move from Trump’s administration, the official English-language newspaper China Daily said in an editorial that Beijing had to stand up to Washington.
“China has no option but to fight fire with fire. It has to resolutely fight back while taking proper measures to help minimize the cost to domestic enterprises and further open up its economy to global investors,” it said.
Reporting by Eric Beech in WASHINGTON, Elias Glenn in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Stella Qiu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Sam Holmes