Donald Trump to meet Xi Jinping after China raises tariffs on US goods in tit-for-tat move

 

May 14, 2019

 


US President Donald Trump with China’s President Xi Jinping at the end of a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in November 2017. PHOTO: AFP

 

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump said on Monday (May 13) he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month, as the trade war between the world’s two largest economies intensified, sending shivers through global markets.

Earlier, China announced it would impose higher tariffs on a range of US goods including frozen vegetables and liquefied natural gas, a move that followed Washington’s decision last week to hike its own levies on US$200 billion in Chinese imports.

The US Trade Representative’s office later said it planned to hold a public hearing next month on the possibility of raising duties of up to 25 per cent on a further US$300 billion worth of imports from China. Mobile phones and laptops would be included in that list, but pharmaceuticals would be excluded, the office said.

The prospect that the United States and China were spiralling into a no-holds-barred dispute that could derail the global economy has rattled investors and led to a sharp selloff on equities markets in the past week.

A gauge of global stocks shed a further 1.9 per cent on Monday, its biggest one-day drop in more than five months. China’s yuan currency fell to its lowest level since December and oil futures slumped.

Trump, who has embraced protectionism as part of an “America First” agenda, said he would talk to Xi at a G20 summit in late June.

“Maybe something will happen,” Trump said in remarks at the White House. “We’re going to be meeting, as you know, at the G20 in Japan and that’ll be, I think, probably a very fruitful meeting.”

US farmers are among those most hurt by the trade war, with soybean sales to China plummeting and US soybean futures hitting their lowest level in a decade. Trump said on Monday his administration was planning to provide about US$15 billion to help farmers whose products might be targeted.

Farmers, who are a core political constituency for Trump’s Republicans heading into the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, are growing increasingly frustrated with the protracted trade talks and the failure to reach an agreement.

“What that means for soya bean growers is that we’re losing,” Davie Stephens, president of the American Soybean Association, said in a statement.

STEADY DRUM BEAT

China said on Monday it plans to set import tariffs ranging from 5 per cent to 25 per cent on 5,140 US products on a US$60 billion target list. It said the tariffs will take effect on June 1.

“China’s adjustment on additional tariffs is a response to US unilateralism and protectionism,” its finance ministry said. “China hopes the US will get back to the right track of bilateral trade and economic consultations and meet with China halfway.”

In the middle of the negotiations last week, Trump hiked tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from 10 per cent. The move affected 5,700 categories of Chinese products, including internet modems and routers.

Sources have said talks stalled after China tried to delete commitments from a draft agreement that its laws would be changed to enact new policies on issues from intellectual property protection to forced technology transfers.

Beijing said on Monday it would “never surrender” to external pressure, and its state media kept up a steady drum beat of strongly-worded commentary, reiterating that the door to talks was always open, but vowing that China would defend its national interests and dignity.

In a commentary, state television said the effect of the US tariffs on the Chinese economy was “totally controllable.”

Trump has said he is in “no rush” to finalise a deal with China. He again defended the move to hike US tariffs and said there was no reason why American consumers would pay the costs.

Economists and industry consultants, however, maintain that it is US businesses that will pay the costs and likely pass them on to consumers.

US tariffs last year triggered retaliation by China, which imposed 25 per cent levies on US$50 billion worth of US products including soybeans, beef and pork and lower tariffs on a list of US$60 billion in goods.

In a research note, Goldman Sachs economists said new evidence showed the costs of Washington’s tariffs on China last year had fallen entirely on US businesses and households, with no clear reduction in prices charged by Chinese exporters.

They added that the effects of the tariffs had spilled over noticeably to the prices charged by US producers competing with goods affected by the levies.

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