A new round of U.S. tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese importshas kicked in, even as officials from the world’s two largest economies meet for negotiations in Washington, prompting opposition from Beijing.
At 12.01 a.m. EDT on Thursday, the U.S. began collecting additional 25 percent duties on 279 Chinese import product categories identified by U.S. Trade Representative. Key products that will be hit by the duties include semiconductors, chemicals, plastics, motorbikes and electric scooters.
Beijing “resolutely opposes” the latest tariffs by the U.S. and will fight back against the U.S. duties, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said on Thursday in response to the new tariffs.
China will file a complaint to the World Trade Organization against the U.S. levies, the ministry said in an online statement.
China earlier threatened to retaliate with new tariffs on $16 billion worth of additional imports from the U.S. including fuel, steel products, autos and medical equipment.
The U.S. tariffs — which are coming on the back of $34 billion worth of Chinese goods that were implemented in July — have spurred U.S. importers to place additional orders to be shipped and delivered ahead.
That has already contributed to higher ocean and air freight rates, and elevated warehousing costs in the U.S., said Henry Ko, managing director for Flexport, a U.S.-based freight forwarding company. Overall, the entire supply chain will incur additional costs, added Ko.
“If trade war actually continues, prices for products across many industries will increase,” Ko told CNBC.
Little respite seen
U.S. and Chinese officials met on Wednesday in Washington for a new round of trade talks, but many are not expecting an easy compromise.
Even the U.S. president is not expecting much progress. Donald Trump told Reuters on Monday that he did not “anticipate much” from the talks led by U.S. Treasury Under Secretary David Malpass and Chinese Commerce Vice Minister Wang Shouwen.
The talks are the first formal interaction between U.S. and Chinese officials since June, when U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross unsuccessfully sought to secure major Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans and liquefied natural gas.
“I don’t see this ending soon, that’s for sure,” said Scott Kennedy, deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The gulf between the Trump administration and the Chinese is as wide as the Pacific and it looks like it’s getting wider because the Trump administration thinks they are winning,” Kennedy told CNBC.
“The Chinese don’t look like they want to give in either. So I think the way this continues to play out is further escalation, finger-pointing and blaming, not a settling down of this anytime soon,” Kennedy added.
Trump has threatened to impose duties on over $500 billion of Chinese goods exported annually to the U.S. unless China agrees to sweeping changes in its intellectual property practices, industrial subsidy programs and tariff structure.
Beijing has denied Washington’s allegations that it systematically forces the unfair transfer of U.S. technology and insists it adheres to World Trade Organization rules.
“I think really if the hawks in the Trump administration get their way, where this ends is in a disengagement of the two economies, not in a settlement through the kinds of negotiations that have been going on in Washington today,” said Kennedy.
Afterall, these are “two sides who still think they have the upper hand if not the ability to withstand pressure from the other side,” Kennedy added, noting that the Chinese economy is still growing even though its stock markets have taken a hit recently.