China fires back, announcing tariffs on US planes, cars and soybeans

BEIJING: China hit back today at the Trump administration’s plan to slap tariffs on US$50 billion (RM193.4 billion) in Chinese goods, retaliating with a list of similar duties on key US imports including soybeans, planes, cars, whiskey and chemicals.

Beijing’s list of 25% additional tariffs on US goods covers 106 items with a trade value matching the US$50 billion targeted on Washington’s list, China’s commerce and finance ministries said.

The effective date will depend on when the US action takes effect.

The announcement triggered further heavy selling in global stock markets and commodities, with US stock futures sliding 1.5%, soybean futures plunging 3.7% and the dollar briefly extending early losses. China’s yuan skidded in offshore trade.

The scale of China’s tariff targets was in line with Beijing’s pledge to mount a commensurate response, but it was released sooner than many observers had expected, adding to market fears that the world’s two largest economies are spiralling towards a trade war that could shake the global economy.

Unlike Washington’s list, which was filled with many obscure industrial items, China’s list strikes at signature US exports.

Hours earlier, the US government unveiled a detailed breakdown of some 1,300 Chinese industrial, transport and medical goods that could be subject to 25% duties, ranging from light-emitting diodes to chemicals and machine parts.

Washington’s move, broadly flagged last month, is aimed at forcing Beijing to address what Washington says is deeply entrenched theft of US intellectual property and forced technology transfer from US companies to Chinese competitors, charges Chinese officials deny.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had shown sincerity in wanting to resolve the trade dispute through negotiations.

“But the best opportunities for resolving the issues through dialogue and negotiations have been repeatedly missed by the US side,” he told a briefing today.

“We regret that soybeans are on the list. We have done everything to prevent this from happening, but we are still calling for a resolution,” said Zhang Xiaoping, China director of the US Soybean Export Council told Reuters.

The tariff list from the office of US trade representative Robert Lighthizer followed China’s imposition of tariffs on US$3 billion worth of US fruits, nuts, pork and wine to protest new US steel and aluminium tariffs imposed last month by Trump.

Publication of Washington’s list starts a public comment and consultation period expected to last around two months.

Many consumer electronics products such as cellphones made by Apple Inc and laptops made by Dell were excluded, as were footwear and clothing, drawing a sigh of relief from retailers who had feared higher costs for American consumers.

A US industry source said the list was somewhat unexpected in that it largely exempts major consumer grade technology products, one of China’s major export categories to the United States.