President Donald Trump has directed the US Trade Representative to prepare new tariffs on $200bn in Chinese imports as the two nations moved closer to a wider trade war, with Beijing promising retaliation.
The tariffs, which Trump wants set at a 10 percent rate, would be the latest round of punitive measures in an escalating dispute over the large trade imbalance between the two countries.
Trump recently ordered tariffs on $50bn in Chinese goods in retaliation for what he claimed is theft of intellectual property.
Are US and China on the brink of a trade war?
The tariffs were quickly matched by China on US exports, including lobsters and soybeans, a move that drew the president’s ire.
“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” Trump said in a statement Monday announcing the new action
“Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong.”
Trump added: “These tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced.”
China’s Commerce Ministry on Tuesday criticised the latest threat of tariffs, saying it was an “act of extreme pressure and blackmail that deviates from the consensus reached by both parties after many negotiations, and is a disappointment to the international community.”
“If the US becomes irrational and issues this list, China will have no choice but to adopt strong countermeasures of the same amount and quality,” the ministry statement said.
‘Dangerous game of bluff’
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, described Trump’s statement as a “dangerous game of bluff”.
US-China trade war
“President Donald Trump has raised the stakes once more. I think it is going to make the chances of a negotiated settlement in the next 17 days that much more difficult,” our correspondent said.
Brown also said that there are no signs of the two nations resuming their stalled trade talks “in just about every level”.
“At the moment, both sides seemed to have backed themselves into a corner with no way out,” he added.
Trump said that if China responds to this fresh round of tariffs, then he will move to counter “by pursuing additional tariffs on another $200bn of goods”.
It was not immediately clear when the new tariffs could be put in place, as the trade office has yet to identify the Chinese goods to be penalized or conduct a legal review.
The first round of penalties announced by both nations is set to take effect July 6.
The intellectual property sanctions were the latest in a spate of protectionist measures unveiled by Trump in recent months that included tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the US and a tough rhetoric on trade negotiations from North America to Asia.
The escalation in the dispute with China may also serve as a warning to other trading partners with whom Trump has been feuding, including Canada and the European Union.
Wall Street has viewed the escalating trade tensions with wariness, fearful they could strangle the economic growth achieved during Trump’s watch.
Gary Cohn, Trump’s former top economic adviser, said last week that a “tariff battle” could result in price inflation and consumer debt — “historic ingredients for an economic slowdown”.