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China: Tit-for-tat tariffs will ‘destroy’ US-China trade

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

United States ambassador Dennis Shea, who was among the first to speak at the closed-door review, argued that China had exploited its membership to take advantage of other nations and that if unchecked Beijing's misconduct would ruin the WTO.

The $200 billion far exceeds the total value of goods China imports from the United States, which means Beijing may need to think of creative ways to respond to such US measures.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Given the magnitude and breadth of the tariff list, the impact is expected to ripple through supply chains and cause collateral damage on regional economies", Zhu Huani of Mizuho Bank said in a commentary. "To protect the core interests of the nation and its people, the Chinese government will be forced to impose necessary countermeasures".

More than 6,000 items could be affected - including burglar alarms, vehicle tyres, handbags, baseball gloves, carpets, toilet paper, dog food, and hundreds of food products.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said China's retaliatory tariffs were "without any worldwide legal basis or justification". That prompted fears Beijing, running out of imports for retaliation due to its lopsided trade balance with the US, might try to disrupt operations of American automakers, retailers and others that see China as a key market.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there was "no justification" for China's retaliation. But China only bought about $135 billion in USA goods past year, meaning it will run out of American products to tax before it matches Trump's latest move.

That intensification of the trade skirmish, which is now being upgraded to a full-scale trade war by some commentators, has investors spooked about the future of the global world order, and the global economy, pushing stock markets around the world deep into the red.

The U.S. government said the new tariffs are in response to Beijing's June 15 tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. exports, which were themselves in retaliation for President Trump's initial tariffs against China.

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President Donald Trump had ordered him last month to draw up the list in the event China retaliated against a previous round of US tariffs.

The suggested new tariffs will not be implemented until after a public comment period, which runs through August. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch called it "reckless", adding that the tariffs were "not a targeted approach".

The US Chamber of Commerce, which had supported Mr Trump's domestic tax cuts, was less enamoured of his tariff policies. "Imposing taxes on another $200 billion worth of products will raise the costs of everyday goods for American families".

"This is an appropriate response under the authority of Section 301 to obtain the elimination of China's harmful industrial policies", Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative (USTR), said.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that a full-blown trade war could undermine the broadest global upswing in years.

By expanding the list, the administration is beginning to hit products that USA households buy, including such things as electric lamps and fish sticks. "But China's reaction to the United States tariffs could pose a far greater threat to the index in time". Beijing has retaliated with duties on the same value of USA imports, ranging from soybeans to cars, and has vowed to respond proportionally to any new U.S. tariffs.

"Unfortunately the markets haven't come to grips with the current levels of trade policies and tariffs", said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in NY.

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