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New US tariff threat raises prospect of all-out trade war

US Trade Representative has begun to draw up a list of another $200bn worth of Chinese imports to hit with a 10% duty, while China says it will strike back with combined measures in quantity and quality.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on another $200bn worth of Chinese goods, adding fuel to the fears about a looming full-scale trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Mr Trump has requested the US Trade Representative to draw up a list of Chinese imports to hit with a 10% duty.

“After the legal process is complete, these tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced,” the president said in a statement.

The move came after Beijing announced its 25% tariff on $50bn of US goods last Friday, responding in “equal scale” to Washington’s earlier hike in customer duty on Chinese products.

“This latest action by China clearly indicates its determination to keep the United States at a permanent and unfair disadvantage, which is reflected in our massive $376bn trade imbalance in goods. This is unacceptable,” Mr Trump added. “Further action must be taken to encourage China to change its unfair practices, open its market to United States goods, and accept a more balanced trade relationship with the United States.”

Should the US unveil another list of Chinese products for extra tariffs, China would have no choice but to resolutely strike back with combined measures in both quantity and quality, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday.

“Such practice of imposing extreme pressure and blackmailing is contrary to the consensus the two sides have reached through rounds of consultations, and disappoints the international community.”

Mr Trump’s initial list includes 818 products worth $34bn in Chinese goods, with the remainder of the $50bn is still to be decided.

The latest back-and-forth measures have sparked concerns that US and China are proceeding into a full-frontal trade war.

The National Retail Federation, a US-based industry group, said in a statement: “This is just what we predicted — a tit-for-tat trade war has erupted and American families are caught in the middle.”

The International Monetary Fund said last week that US trade policies were likely to hurt its domestic economy and undermine the world’s trade system.

IMF director Christine Lagarde said a trade war would lead to “losers on both sides” and might have a “serious” impact.

First published on
Cichen Shen | Wednesday, 20 June 2018

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