US-China trade war intensifies as punitive tariffs kick in

Workers at a swimwear factory in Yinglin town in Jinjiang, in China's eastern Fujian Province. China's top envoy, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, called on the United States to remain "cool-headed." (AFP)
Updated 23 August 2018
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US-China trade war intensifies as punitive tariffs kick in

BEIJING: The US and China escalated their acrimonious trade war on Thursday, implementing punitive 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other’s goods, even as mid-level officials from both sides resumed talks in Washington.
The world’s two largest economies have now slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on a combined $100 billion of products since early July, with more in the pipeline, adding to risks to global economic growth.
China’s Commerce Ministry said Washington was “remaining obstinate” by implementing the latest tariffs, which kicked in on both sides as scheduled at 12:01 p.m. in Beijing.
“China resolutely opposes this, and will continue to take necessary countermeasures,” it said in a brief statement.
“At the same time, to safeguard free trade and multilateral systems, and defend its own lawful interests, China will file a suit regarding these tariff measures under the WTO dispute resolution mechanism,” it said.
President Donald Trump has threatened to put duties on almost all of the more than $500 billion of Chinese goods exported to the US annually unless Beijing agrees to sweeping changes to its intellectual property practices, industrial subsidy programs and tariff structures, and buys more US goods.
That figure would be far more than China imports from the US, raising concerns that Beijing could consider other forms of retaliation, such as making life more difficult for American firms in China or allowing its yuan currency to weaken further to support its exporters.
Trump administration officials have been divided over how hard to press Beijing, but the White House appears to believe it is winning the trade war as China’s economy slows and its stock markets tumble.
“They’re not going to give that up easily. Naturally they’ll retaliate a little bit,” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on CNBC on Wednesday at a Century Aluminum smelter in Hawesville, Kentucky.
“But at the end of the day, we have many more bullets than they do. They know it. We have a much stronger economy than they have, they know that too,” Ross said.
Economists reckon that every $100 billion of imports hit by tariffs would reduce global trade by around 0.5 percent.
The tariffs took effect amid two days of talks in Washington between mid-level officials from both sides, the first formal negotiations since US Commerce Secretary met with Chinese economic adviser Liu He in Beijing in June.
Business groups expressed hope that the meeting would mark the start of serious negotiations over Chinese trade and economic policy changes demanded by Trump.
However, Trump on Monday told Reuters in an interview that he did not “anticipate much” from the talks led by US Treasury Under Secretary David Malpass and Chinese Commerce Vice Minister Wang Shouwen.
Trump has rattled Beijing, and spurred rare criticism within the highest levels of China’s ruling Communist Party over its handling of the trade war, sources have said.
Beijing has denied US allegations that it systematically forces the unfair transfer of US technology and has said that it adheres to World Trade Organization rules.
The official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Thursday that China had approached the latest round of talks in good faith, but that Washington remains vague about what it wants.
“As US President Donald Trump said in his book on making deals, ‘the point is that you can’t be too greedy.’ The two sides (would be wise to)
define their top concerns in this round of talks and outline a roadmap, in a bid to find a way out of the current impasse and toward the final settlement of the issues.”
Washington’s latest tariffs apply to 279 product categories including semiconductors, plastics, chemicals and railway equipment that the Office of the US Trade Representative has said benefit from Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” industrial plan to make China competitive in high-tech industries.
China’s list of 333 US product categories hit with duties includes coal, copper scrap, fuel, steel products, buses and medical equipment.


Former Nissan chairman Ghosn appears in Tokyo court

Updated 23 May 2019
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Former Nissan chairman Ghosn appears in Tokyo court

  • It is the first of a series of hearings to iron out logistics for Carlos Ghosn’s actual trial
  • Nissan’s former chairman has hired a strong legal team as he fights to clear his name

TOKYO: Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, appeared in a Japanese courtroom Thursday for a hearing ahead of his trial on accusations of financial misconduct.
It was the first of a series of hearings to iron out logistics for Ghosn’s actual trial. The trial date has not been set, and experts say it could be months away.
Ghosn, who led the Japanese automaker for two decades, was arrested in November and charged with underreporting his income and breach of trust. He was released on bail in March, rearrested in April on fresh accusations and then released again on bail on April 25.
Ghosn insists he is innocent and says he was targeted in a “conspiracy” by others at Nissan Motor Co.
Nissan, which is allied with Renault of France, has seen profits nose-dive amid the fallout from Ghosn’s arrest.
Ghosn has hired a strong legal team as he fights to clear his name. One of his top lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, was seen walking into the courtroom Thursday with Ghosn.
One of the conditions of Ghosn’s release on bail is that he is forbidden to contact his wife. Prosecutors say that’s to prevent evidence tampering.
Ghosn’s lawyers challenged that restriction, saying it is a violation of human rights, but the Supreme Court rejected their appeal Tuesday.
The lawyers can appeal again to have the restriction removed.
In a briefing Thursday, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Shin Kukimoto welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.
“For married people to be together is important, but I feel there was enough reason for the Supreme Court to support us in this restriction,” he said.
Kukimoto declined comment on the hearing, which was closed to reporters and the public.
Kukimoto also said the maximum penalty upon conviction of all 15 counts of the charges Ghosn is facing is 15 years in prison and a fine of ¥150 million ($1.4 million).