Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Confusion Hits Chinese Ports As Trump's Tariffs Go Into Effect

Chinese flag Modal Trigger Getty Images
Rhonda Young | 06 July, 2018, 21:11

Those caught in the initial line of fire - US farmers facing tariffs on their exports to China, for example - are already hunkered down and fearing the worst.

A spokesperson at China's Ministry of Commerce said Friday that while the Asian giant had refused to "fire the first shot", it was being forced to respond after the USA had "launched the largest trade war in economic history".

President Donald Trump, warning of subsequent rounds of tariffs affecting pretty much all Chinese exports to the U.S.: "You have another 16 (billion dollars) in two weeks, and then, as you know, we have $200 billion in abeyance and then after the $200 billion, we have $300 billion in abeyance. Ok?"

Retaliatory measures "took effect immediately", said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang.

China's customs agency said Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods would take effect immediately after the USA duties on Chinese goods kicked in, although Beijing has said it will not be the first to pull the trigger. USA soybean farmers have been particularly concerned, and the price of soybeans has plunged 17 per cent over the past month on tariff fears.

While the administration says the trade barriers will force China to stop stealing American intellectual property, it appears more likely that non-Chinese businesses will bear the brunt of the tariffs, according to an analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

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During an official visit to Bulgaria, China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, said "no one will win by fighting a trade war, yet China will take countermeasures in the face of unilateral moves".

Companies worry the spiraling dispute could chill global economic growth, but Asian financial markets took Friday's developments in stride. The Shanghai Composite index fell 1.1%, after reaching more than a two-year low this week.

The conflict between the world's two biggest economies reflects chronic tension in their relationship as customers, business partners, and increasingly competitors. Beijing has announced reforms this year including ending limits on foreign ownership in its auto industry, but none directly addresses complaints that are fueling its conflict with Washington.

When the clock stuck midnight, USA tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports took effect.

China's tariffs on hundreds of US goods include top exports such as soybeans, sorghum and cotton, threatening USA farmers in states that backed Trump in the 2016 USA election, such as Texas and Iowa.

Chinese officials reject accusations of theft and say no foreign company is obligated to share technology. The U.S. has already levied tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, angering those allies and prompting them to retaliate.

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Beijing had said it would retaliate with punitive measures on USA products worth a similar amount, including soybeans, pork and cotton, but it had not officially confirmed on Friday that they had taken effect.

China also promised that it would respond with trade restrictions of its own to counteract Trump's decision.

"This is a potential concern for the outlook of corporate investment and consumption around world", said Hui. Sate-run China Daily, called the Trump administration "a gang of hoodlums with its shakedown of other countries, particularly China". It said they would damage the global economy unless other countries stop them.

"The key is whether there will be more - a second round of revenge and retaliation and a third round", said Shi Yinhong, a professor of global relations at Renmin University in Beijing.

However, after the elections in November it was possible that the economic costs of Trump's approach would be clearer and prompt a rethink, Leering said.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China appealed to both sides to negotiate a settlement. Companies want fairer treatment but will be hurt by U.S.

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Chinese analysts said the first round would be tough but manageable, but were bracing for more to come.

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