Beijing has announced its own tariff measures targeting Washington, following the White House’s confirmation on Friday that a new round of duties against Chinese goods will go into effect in three weeks.
China says its tariffs mirror the American ones. Indeed, the numbers appear identical. In Beijing, the State Council’s Customs Tariff Commission said on Friday it will impose a 25 percent tariff on 659 categories of U.S. goods valued at $50 billion. An initial list of 545 categories of items valued at $34 billion will be subject to tariffs starting July 6th—the same day the U.S. says it will impose tariffs. The Chinese list includes agricultural products, automobiles, and aquatics.
On Friday, the White House confirmed it will impose a 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. It is reviewing a list of items that would cover an additional $16 billion worth of Chinese imports.
In April, U.S. President Donald Trump asked American trade officials to present him with a list of $50 billion worth of Chinese goods that Washington could tax under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974. The list included 1,333 product lines. After a review period, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) removed more than 500 items, including televisions and pharmaceuticals. This left 818 lines valued at $34 billion. On July 6th, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin collecting the additional 25 percent tax on those products.
In a statement on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump defended the decision. “My great friendship with President Xi (Jinping) of China and our country’s relationship with China are both very important to me,” Trump wrote. “Trade between our nations, however, has been very unfair, for a very long time. This situation is no longer sustainable.”
The initial list mostly targets Chinese goods that fall under the “Made in China 2025” initiative, or other Chinese government-backed programs aimed at advancing Chinese industry. USTR added an additional 284 product lines not on the original list. The new lines will go through a separate review period before being before U.S. Customs and Border Control can collect additional taxes on those goods.
In a statement on Friday, the State Council’s Customs Tariff Commission said the U.S. was violating the rules of the World Trade Organization, and contradicting previous negotiations between Washington and Beijing. “It seriously violates the legitimate rights and interests of our country,” the statement reads in part, “and damages the interests of our country and people.”
Before the Chinese measures were announced, Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, warned that China’s reaction would be swift and “of the same scale and intensity.” He said that China does not seek a trade war. “However, confronted by such short-sighted act that hurts both the U.S. itself and others,” he said. Lu added China is taking this action “to fight back forcefully, to firmly safeguard the interests of the nation and its people and uphold economic globalization and the multilateral trading system.”
The U.S. tariffs are in addition to previously announced duties on imports of steel and aluminum from several countries, including China. Those tariffs were introduced under Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act. It authorizes the U.S. President to impose tariffs when it is in the interest of American “national security.”
The European Union has called the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs “illegal.” The EU, along with Canada and Mexico, will impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, and file dispute settlement cases with the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
On Friday, a spokesman for the Chinese Minister of Commerce sounded a conciliatory note, saying the two sides have conducted rounds of talks on trade and are trying to settle disputes in a mutually beneficial “win-win” manner. But, the spokesman also called the U.S. tariffs “deeply regrettable.” He said the U.S. “has demonstrated flip-flops and ignited a trade war.” The spokesman added that this “undermines the world trade order. The Chinese side firmly opposes that.”