China accuses Trump of ‘blackmail’ after new tariffs threat

China has so far targeted major American exports to China such as soybeans, above, which brought in $14 billion in sales last year. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2018
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China accuses Trump of ‘blackmail’ after new tariffs threat

  • Donald Trump asked the US Trade Representative to target $200 billion worth of imports for a 10 percent levy, citing China’s ‘unacceptable’ move to raise its own tariffs.
  • China had offered to ramp up purchases of American goods by $70 billion to help cut its yawning trade surplus with the United States, whereas Trump had demanded a $200 billion deficit cut

BEIJING: Beijing on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of “blackmail” and warned it would retaliate in kind after the US president threatened to impose fresh tariffs on Chinese goods, pushing the world’s two biggest economies closer to a trade war.
Trump said on Monday he had asked the US Trade Representative to target $200 billion worth of imports for a 10 percent levy, citing China’s “unacceptable” move to raise its own tariffs.
He added he would identify an extra $200 billion of goods — for a possible total of $450 billion, or most Chinese imports — “if China increases its tariffs yet again.”
“Further action must be taken to encourage China to change its unfair practices, open its market to United States goods and accept a more balanced trade relationship with the United States,” Trump said in a statement.
Last week, he announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to retaliate with matching duties on US goods.
The US leader warned Friday of “additional tariffs” should Beijing hit back with tit-for-tat measures.
“The trade relationship between the United States and China must be much more equitable,” he said in explaining his latest decision.
“I have an excellent relationship with President Xi (Jinping), and we will continue working together on many issues. But the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”
China’s commerce ministry immediately responded by saying the US “practice of extreme pressure and blackmail departed from the consensus reached by both sides during multiple negotiations and has also greatly disappointed international society.”
“If the US acts irrationally and issues a list, China will have no choice but to take comprehensive measures of a corresponding number and quality and take strong, powerful countermeasures.”
The news hit stock markets in Asia, where Shanghai shed three percent in the morning, Hong Kong lost more than two percent and Tokyo was one percent lower.
Trump is moving forward with the measures after months of sometimes fraught shuttle diplomacy in which Chinese offers to purchase more American goods failed to assuage his grievances over a widening trade imbalance and China’s aggressive industrial development policies.
China had offered to ramp up purchases of American goods by $70 billion to help cut its yawning trade surplus with the United States, whereas Trump had demanded a $200 billion deficit cut.
The China trade offensive is only one side of Trump’s multi-front battle with the United States’ economic partners as he presses ahead with his protectionist “America First” agenda.
Since June 1, steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico have been hit with tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
“This latest action by China clearly indicates its determination to keep the United States at a permanent and unfair disadvantage, which is reflected in our massive $376 billion trade imbalance in goods,” Trump said of China’s retaliatory tariffs.
“This is unacceptable.”
Two decades ago, China’s economy was largely fueled by exports, but it has made progress in rebalancing toward domestic investment and consumption since the global financial crisis erupted last decade — limiting the damage trade tariffs could inflict on Beijing.
Still, strong exports this year have lifted the economy, which is now showing signs of losing steam under the weight of Beijing’s war on debt, launched to clean up financial risks and rein in borrowing-fueled growth.
Initially, 545 US products valued at $34 billion will be targeted by China, mimicking the Trump administration’s tariff rollout.
Beijing wants to “demonstrate that things will be done their way or not at all,” said Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School, who believes Chinese policymakers prefer demonstrations of “power and control” over “technical policy rightness.”
“It is a game of chicken,” Balding said.
So far Beijing has targeted major American exports to China such as soybeans, which brought in $14 billion in sales last year, and are grown in states that supported Trump during the 2016 presidential election, as well as other politically important products.
Officials also drew up a second list of $16 billion in chemical and energy products to hit with new tariffs, though China did not announce a date for imposing them.
More American targets are likely to follow as soon as the Trump administration follows through with publishing an expanded tariff list.


German industry groups warn US on tariffs before Trump-Juncker meeting

Updated 22 July 2018
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German industry groups warn US on tariffs before Trump-Juncker meeting

  • Washington imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico on June 1
  • Trump is threatening to extend them to EU cars and car parts

BERLIN: German industry groups warned on Sunday, before European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker meets US President Donald Trump this week, that tariffs the United States has imposed or is threatening to introduce risk harming America itself.
Citing national security grounds, Washington imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico on June 1 and Trump is threatening to extend them to EU cars and car parts. Juncker will discuss trade with Trump at a meeting on Wednesday.
“The tariffs under the guise of national security should be abolished,” Dieter Kempf, head of Germany’s BDI industry association said. Juncker should tell Trump that the United States would harm itself with tariffs on cars and car parts, he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
The German auto industry employed more than 118,000 people in the United States and 60 percent of what they produced was exported. “Europe should not let itself be blackmailed and should put in a confident appearance in the United States,” he added.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio on Sunday he hoped it was still possible to find a solution that was attractive to both sides. “For us, that means we stand by open markets and low tariffs,” he said
He said the possibility of US tariffs on EU cars was very serious and stressed that reductions in international tariffs in the last 40 years and the opening of markets had resulted in major benefits for citizens.
EU officials have tried to lower expectations about what Juncker can achieve, and played down suggestions that he will arrive in Washington with a novel plan to restore good relations.
Altmaier said it was difficult to estimate the impact of any US car tariffs on the German economy, but added: “Tariffs on aluminum and steel had a volume of just over six billion euros. In this case we would be talking about almost ten times that.”
He said he hoped job losses could be avoided but noted that trade between Europe and the United States made up around one third of total global trade.
“You can imagine that if we go down with a cold in the German-American or European-American relationship, many others around us will get pneumonia so it’s highly risky and that’s why we need to end this conflict as quickly as possible.”
Eric Schweitzer, president of the DIHK Chambers of Commerce, told Welt am Sonntag the German economy had for decades counted on open markets and a reliable global trading system but added: “Every day German companies feel the transatlantic rift getting wider.”