China hits back at latest US tariffs with measures on $60bn

The US-China trade war escalated further with China announcing retaliatory tax increases on $60bn worth of American imports.

US President Donald Trump said a day earlier he will impose 10 percent tariffs on about $200bn worth of Chinese products.

“China is forced to respond to US unilateralism and trade protectionism, and has no choice but to respond with its own tariffs,” the finance ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tariffs of between five and 10 percent will take effect on some 5,200 US products on Monday, on the same day as the new US duties, it said.

The tit-for-tat measures are the latest in an ongoing trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies. The two sides already traded tariff salvos on $50bn in goods from each country in the summer.

China also announced it was lodging a new complaint at the World Trade Organization in its tariffs battle with the United States.

Beijing had previously warned it would target $60bn in US goods if Trump made good on his threat to impose the new tariffs. The lower Chinese figure highlights Beijing’s inability to match the US dollar-for-dollar in a tariff war.

The US imported about $500bn worth of products from China last year, compared to $130bn in US goods imported by the Asian country.

‘Phase 3’

The rates will be levied at five to 10 percent, instead of the previously proposed five, 10, 20 and 25 percent rates, according to the Chinese finance ministry’s website.

Trump warned tariffs would increase to 25 percent on January 1 unless the two countries reach a deal on trade. 

“We’re having a tremendous impact on China. We’re doing a very good job with China,” he said on Tuesday. “China wants to come over and talk. And we are always open to talking. But we have to do something.”

The US president said any retaliatory measures from China would force the US to “immediately pursue phase three”, which is tariffs on $267bn of additional imports.

China’s finance ministry said it will respond accordingly if the US further increases taxes. 

Failed negotiations

The latest tariffs come after talks between the two countries failed to resolve the trade dispute.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin invited top Chinese officials to a new round of discussions last week, but no meeting has been scheduled.

Trump has said the tariffs aim to force a change in Chinese trade policies that he says pose “a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy”.

“China has been taking advantage of the United States on trade for many years. They also know that I am the one that knows how to stop it,” he said in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday. 

Analysts have warned US companies could face a Chinese consumer backlash.

“If the Chinese people believe that they are being maligned they will boycott. You’re already starting to see some anti-American sentiments saying, ‘I’m not going to buy that, it’s American’,” China analyst Einar Tangen told Al Jazeera.

LNG takes a hit

Liquefied natural gas (LNG), mineral ores, coffee and various types of edible oil will be among the US products subject to the 10 percent tax.

Tariffs on LNG casts a shadow over US plans for new export terminals that were expected to turn the United States into the world’s second largest LNG seller, and undermine Trump’s drive to make the United States a global energy leader.

LNG, which involves liquefying gas to so that it can be transported by ship rather than pipeline, has become one of the fastest growing commodity trades as nations seek cleaner fuels.

New US terminals were expected to account for 60 percent of all new LNG production coming to market by 2023, according to industry data.

Stacey Morris, director of energy research at Alerian Indexes, said tariffs would “likely be a negative for LNG projects in the US looking to secure future sales contracts with Chinese customers”.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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