WASHINGTON/BEIJING: Ramping up the US-China trade war, the Trump administration today announced 10 per cent tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to warn of "counter measures" to safeguard its interests.
The Trump administration's move comes after the US imposed 25 per cent tariffs on Chinese goods worth $34 billion last Friday. Beijing immediately responded with its own tariffs on US goods worth $34 billion. The retaliatory tariffs that China enacted Friday targeted US cars and major agricultural goods, such as soybeans and meat.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a list of thousands of additional goods that could face 10 per cent tariffs after a public comment period. It includes fruit and vegetables, handbags, refrigerators, rain jackets and baseball gloves. Lighthizer said there was "no justification" for China's retaliation.
"As in the past, the United States is willing to engage in efforts that could lead to a resolution of our concerns about China's unfair trade practices and to China opening its market to US goods and services," he said. "In the meantime, we will remain vigilant in defending the ability of our workers and businesses to compete on a fair and reciprocal basis," he said.
The White House says the tariffs are a response to unfair trade practices by China. The US wants China to stop practices that allegedly encourage transfer of intellectual property to Chinese companies, such as requirements that foreign firms share ownership with local partners to access the Chinese market.
Reacting to Washington's fresh move, China said it was "shocked" and warned that it would endanger global trade. China's Commerce Ministry described Washington's latest threat as "totally unacceptable," saying it would harm the world. "The behaviour of the US is hurting China, hurting the world and hurting itself," a spokesperson for China's commerce ministry said in a statement.
The spokesperson also said the government would have to take the "necessary counter-measures". US Trade Representative Lighthizer said due to China's retaliation and failure to change its practices, President Donald Trump has ordered USTR to begin the process of imposing tariffs of 10 per cent on an additional USD 200 billion of Chinese imports.
"This is an appropriate response under the authority of Section 301 to obtain the elimination of China's harmful industrial policies. The USTR will proceed with a transparent and comprehensive public notice and comment process prior to the imposition of final tariffs, as we have for previous tariffs," Lighthizer said.
The United States on Wednesday had demanded "reckoning" over China's membership in the World Trade Organisation, with US ambassador Dennis Shea arguing that China had exploited its membership to take advantage of other nations and that if unchecked Beijing's misconduct would ruin the WTO.
China however, in a report submitted ahead of the three day review, insisted it had "been a strong advocate for free trade" since joining the WTO in 2001 and "comprehensively fulfilled its commitments."