Washington: The US prepared to hit China with new tariffs even as President Donald Trump said he’ll meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at next month’s G-20 summit, an encounter that could prove pivotal in a deepening clash over trade.
The US Trade Representative’s office Monday released a list of about $300 billion (Dh1.10 trillion) worth of Chinese goods including children’s clothing, toys, mobile phones and laptops that Trump has threatened to hit with a 25 per cent tariff.
If Trump proceeds with the tariffs, it would see almost all imports from China covered by punitive import duties. It also would turn the president’s trade wars into a tangible reality for many Americans as he seeks re-election.
At the same time, Trump is sounding optimistic about the chances of a deal. “When the time is right we will make a deal with China. My respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited but, as I have told him many times before, this must be a great deal for the United States or it just doesn’t make any sense,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
Under a process outlined by US officials, the new tariffs would not take effect until late June at the earliest. But that could come just as Trump meets with Xi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 leaders meeting June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan, raising the stakes in an already escalating trade war.
Earlier on Monday Trump warned Beijing not to go too far in responding to US trade actions after China rolled out its retaliation to his move to hike import duties on a separate $200 billion (Dh735 billion) tranche of imports from China last week.
“There can be some retaliation, but it can’t be very substantial,” Trump told reporters Monday at the White House during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
US equity futures rose alongside European stocks on Tuesday while shares in Asia dropped. Shares in Shanghai posted a modest decline, while Hong Kong equities slumped as the market reopened after a holiday.
The release of the additional tariffs list and the continuing escalation it signals drew an outcry from business groups who have been lobbying against the duties. USTR said that the new tariffs would not apply to pharmaceuticals or rare earths.
“We support the administration’s efforts to deliver a meaningful trade agreement that levels the playing field for American businesses and workers,”
Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. “But the latest tariff escalation is far too great a gamble for the US economy.”
Economists have warned that the existing tariffs would hurt US growth. But they are also worried an escalation to cover all trade from China and the Chinese retaliation it would provoke would do far more damage and could even tip the US economy into recession.
China announced Monday its plans to raise duties on some $60 billion in American imports starting June 1, defying a call from Trump to resist escalating the trade war.