Trump signs on tariffs against $50bn of China imports

Jennie Bell

By Andrew MayedaChina's ambassador to the United States wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Asian nation scaling back purchases of Treasuries in response to tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump.

Saying it would be the "first of many" trade actions, Trump signed the order that also could result in restrictions on Chinese investment in the US.

The 25 percent U.S. steel duty may be met with a similar tariff on pork and aluminum scrap, the Commerce Ministry said. A second list of goods, including wine, apples, ethanol and stainless steel pipe, would be charged 15%, mirroring Trump's tariff hike on aluminum. "It would certainly hurt the daily life of American middle-class people, and the American companies, and the financial markets".

China today warned the United States that it was not afraid of a trade war as it threatened tariffs on 3 billion dollars worth of USA goods in retaliation over the U.S. measures. China significantly increased its tariff rates on USA ethanol in January 2017, which caused shipments to collapse. Nor is it a surprise that China would threaten to fight back, with tariffs on such USA products as soybeans. Companies worry the dispute could spiral into tit-for-tat import controls by governments worldwide that could suppress global trade. The threat mirrors the United States duty hike of 15 percent on aluminum.

Trump said he views the Chinese as "a friend", and both sides are in the midst of negotiations. China doesn't want a trade war, it said, "but is absolutely not afraid of a trade war". We've been dealing with it very seriously. "They're not going to be like us".

In fact, the commerce ministry said on its website that the USA move, restricting imports on national security grounds, "has severely undermined the multilateral trade system led by the WTO, disrupted global trade order, and has drawn opposition from other WTO members". It appealed for dialogue "to avoid damage to overall Chinese-U.S.co-operation".

Beijing reported a trade surplus of $275.8 billion with the United States past year, or two-thirds of its global total.

Wall Street
Traders on Wall Street CREDIT AP Images

Trump, however, appears intent on fulfilling election campaign promises to reduce the record U.S. trade deficit with China.

US authorities also are investigating whether Beijing improperly compels foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access, which could lead to still more trade penalties.

"He has apparently miscalculated the situation and underestimated China's resolve and capability to defend its own legitimate rights and interests as well as the price the USA has to pay for its recklessness and willfulness", the spokeswoman noted. China considers cooperation as the way to route trade relations with the USA and it does not want a confrontation in that aspect because it will also have negative consequences at global level.

"With the restrained response, China hopes Trump can realise his errors and mend his ways", said Xu Hongcai, deputy chief economist at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, a Beijing think tank.

However, a presidential memorandum signed by Mr Trump said there would be a 30-day consultation period, effectively creating room for talks over his claims against China about intellectual property theft and technology transfers.

"We're doing things for this country that should've been done for many, many years", the president said Thursday.

Trump ratings highest in 11 months with 42% approval rate: CNN Poll
While Trump has seen his approval rating climb in recent weeks, he's still relatively unpopular overall. Trump's handling of foreign affairs merits 39% approval, with 53% saying they disapprove.

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