US President Donald Trump has approved tariffs worth $50 billion on import of goods from China, triggering the possibility of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies after Beijing vowed to immediately retaliate.
A formal announcement is expected to be made by the US Trade Representatives today with a notification in the Federal Register in the coming weeks. The move is likely to attract retaliatory action by China.
Trump’s approval to impose tariffs on Chinese exports followed a 90-minute meeting he had with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representatives Robert Lighthizer yesterday. The meeting also included representatives of the National Security Council.
Reacting to Trump’s latest move, China vowed to immediately retaliate.
“If the US side adopts unilateral protectionist measures and damages China’s interests, we will immediately react and take necessary measures to firmly safeguard our legitimate rights and interests,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang during a regular news briefing in Beijing.
China had previously said it would respond to American tariffs on USD 50 billion worth of Chinese exports with retaliatory tariffs on USD 50 billion of US products such as cars, planes and soybeans.
Trump’s first announced that the US would impose trade penalties on about USD 50 billion of Chinese goods in March.
After China warned it would retaliate, Trump threatened tariffs on a further $100 billion of Chinese products.
In mid-May, both sides announced a ceasefire after two rounds of trade negotiations. The countries said in a joint statement that China would “significantly increase” purchases of US agricultural and energy products to reduce the trade imbalance, a top Trump administration demand.
Ten days later, the White House abruptly said it would proceed with the tariffs.
A further round of trade talks in Beijing earlier this month failed to yield any breakthroughs.
Following the latest decision by Trump, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said tariffs must be seen as one tool among many the US could use to hold bad actors like China accountable and bring the Chinese government to the table to secure a more favourable balance of trade.