China announced a tariff hike on $50 billion of U.S. goods Wednesday, including soybeans, aircraft and autos. The move came shortly after Beijing vowed to impose measures of the “same strength” in response to a proposed U.S. tariff hike on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.
China’s Commerce Ministry on Wednesday criticized the U.S. move as a violation of global trade rules and said China was acting to protect its “legitimate rights and interests.” It said a 25 percent tariff would be imposed. The date the charges will take effect has yet to be announced.
In an early-morning tweet on Wednesday, President Donald Trump insisted there was no trade war with China, as “that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.” Instead, Mr. Trump insisted the U.S. was just trying to resolve a massive trade deficit.
Reportedly, China also says it wants to negotiate, but with no hard start date yet for any of these tariffs, they remain just threats – for now.
Already there are fears the spiraling trade dispute could set back the global economic recovery.
European markets sank in early trading after the Chinese announcement, and Wall Street was poised for a big sell-off, with Dow futures tumbling 1.8 percent to 23,557.00. Broader S&P 500 futures slumped 1.5 percent to 2,575.00. Germany’s DAX fell 1.1 percent to 11,867.14 and France’s CAC 40 shed 0.4 percent to 5,130.70. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.4 percent to 7,001.65.
The clash reflects growing tension between President Trump’s promises to narrow the multibillion-dollar U.S. trade deficit with China and the ruling Communist Party’s development plans. Those include using access to China’s vast market as leverage to induce foreign automakers and other companies to help create or improve industry and technology.
Beijing was reacting to a U.S. announcement Tuesday of a list of Chinese goods targeted for a tariff hike previously approved by Mr. Trump. They include medical, aerospace and information technology.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said those products benefit from Chinese policies that including requiring foreign companies to hand over technology in violation of Beijing’s free-trade commitments.
Businesspeople and economists had predicted aircraft and soybeans could be among the items targeted by China. The dispute has fueled fears it might set back the global recovery if other governments are prompted to raise their own import barriers.
Asian governments will closely watch Beijing’s reaction in a dispute that “may compel countries to pick sides,” said Weiliang Chang of Mizuho Bank in a report.
On Wednesday, Asian stock markets were mixed. Market benchmarks in Hong Kong and Tokyo were off 0.2 percent at midday but the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8 percent.
American companies have long chafed under Chinese regulations that require them to operate through local partners and share technology with potential competitors in exchange for market access. Business groups say companies feel increasingly unwelcome in China’s state-dominated economy and are being squeezed out of promising industries.
Chinese policies “coerce American companies into transferring their technology and intellectual property to domestic Chinese enterprises,” said a USTR statement.
China has accused Mr. Trump of damaging the global system of trade regulation by taking action under U.S. law instead of through the WTO. The Commerce Ministry’s statement Wednesday criticized the latest moves as “a typical unilateralist and protectionist practice.”