China fires salvo in trade war with United States

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) before their bilateral meeting at the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore, yesterday. [Reuters]
China proposed retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of US goods ranging from liquefied natural gas (LNG) to some aircraft yesterday, as a senior Chinese diplomat cast doubt on prospects of talks with Washington to solve their bitter trade conflict given current US behaviour.

The Trump administration ratcheted up pressure for trade concessions from Beijing this week by proposing a higher 25 per cent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. China immediately vowed to retaliate though at the same time urged the US to act rationally and return to talks to resolve the row.

The US and China implemented tariffs on $34 billion worth of each others’ goods in July. Washington is expected to soon implement tariffs on an additional $16 billion of Chinese goods, which China has already announced it will match immediately.

China has now either imposed or proposed tariffs on $110 billion of US goods, representing the vast majority of China’s annual imports of American products. Last year, China imported about $130 billion of US goods.

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China’s finance ministry unveiled new sets of additional tariffs on 5,207 goods imported from the US, with the extra levies ranging from 5 to 25 per cent.

Timing will depend on the actions of the United States, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a separate statement. “The US side has repeatedly escalated the situation against the interests of both enterprises and consumers,” the Commerce Ministry said in its statement.

“China has to take necessary countermeasures to defend its dignity and the interests of its people, free trade and the multilateral system.”

Representatives for the White House and the US Commerce Department did not immediately reply to requests for comment on China’s retaliatory move.

The United States alleges that China steals US corporate secrets and wants it to stop doing so, and is also seeking to get Beijing to abandon plans to boost its high-tech industries at America’s expense. Washington also wants China to stop subsidising Chinese companies with cheap loans, claiming that this allows them to compete unfairly.

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US President Donald Trump has said he is determined to reduce the large US trade deficit with China.

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