US, China impose fresh tariffs with no trade talks in sight

US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and retaliatory tariffs by Beijing on $60 billion worth of US products took effect on Monday. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2018
0

US, China impose fresh tariffs with no trade talks in sight

  • The two countries have already slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other’s goods earlier this year
  • Trade talks in Washington last month produced no meaningful progress

BEIJING: The US and China imposed fresh tariffs on each other’s goods on Monday, as the world’s biggest economies showed no signs of backing down from an increasing bitter trade dispute that has rattled financial markets.
US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and retaliatory tariffs by Beijing on $60 billion worth of US products took effect as of 0401 GMT.
The two countries have already slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other’s goods earlier this year.
Chinese products hit with new US duties include vacuum cleaners to Internet-connected devices, while US goods targeted by Beijing include liquefied natural gas and certain types of aircraft.
China’s state council will publish a white paper at 1 pm local time (0500 GMT) on the trade frictions with the US, the official Xinhua news agency reported, without giving further details.
Though a senior White House official last week said the US will continue to engage China for a “positive way forward,” neither side has signaled willingness to compromise.
The US official said on Friday there was no date set for the next round of talks. The Wall Street Journal reported that China, which has accused Washington of being insincere in trade negotiations, has decided not to send Vice Premier Liu He to Washington this week.
Economists warn that a protracted dispute will eventually stunt growth not just in the US and China but across the broader global economy.
The trade tensions have also cast a pall over broader relations between Beijing and Washington, with the two sides butting heads on a growing number of issues.
China summoned the US ambassador in Beijing and postponed joint military talks in protest against a US decision to sanction a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian fighter jets and a surface-to-air missile system.
Trade talks in Washington last month produced no meaningful progress.
Rob Carnell, chief Asia economist at ING, said in a note to clients that in the absence of any incentives Beijing would likely hold off on any further negotiations for now.
“It would look weak both to the US and at home,” he said, adding that there is “sufficient stimulus in the pipeline” to limit the damage of the latest tariffs on China’s growth.
“The US-China trade war has no clear end in sight.”
China may also be waiting for US mid-term elections early next month for any hints of changes in Washington’s policy stance, Carnell added.
“With generic polls favoring the Democrats, they may feel that the trade environment will be less hostile after November 6.”
The US administration will levy tariffs of 10 percent on the $200 billion of Chinese products, with the tariffs to go up to 25 percent by the end of 2018.
Beijing set its new levies on $60 billion of US goods at 5 and 10 percent and warned it would respond to any rise in US tariffs on Chinese products accordingly.
US President Donald Trump on Saturday reiterated a threat to impose further tariffs on Chinese goods should Beijing retaliate, in line with his previous comments signaling that Washington may move to impose tariffs on virtually all imported Chinese goods if the administration does not get its way.
China imports far less from the US, making a dollar-for-dollar match on any new US tariffs impossible.
Instead, it has warned of “qualitative” measures to retaliate.
Though Beijing has not revealed what such steps might be, business executives and analysts say China could withhold exports of certain products to the US or create more administrative red tape for American companies.
Some analysts say there is also a risk that China could allow its yuan currency to weaken again to cushion the blow to its exporters.


War-ridden Yemen’s other frontline — the central bank

Updated 18 December 2018
0

War-ridden Yemen’s other frontline — the central bank

  • The Arab world’s poorest country is crippled by a humanitarian crisis
  • Many have died as a result of poverty, starvation, poor health care as the central bank is caught up in the conflict

ADEN: Cashiers sort through large stacks of money inside a ragged building that is Yemen’s central bank, another frontline in a ruinous conflict as it fights to stave off economic collapse.
The Arab world’s poorest country is crippled by a humanitarian crisis, with images of skeletal children in famine-like conditions grabbing global attention, but economic dysfunction appears to be at the heart of the problem.
Yemen is afflicted by what diplomats call a famine of jobs and salaries, with the central bank — headquartered in the government’s de facto capital Aden.
Running the economy from a building pocked with bullet holes in the southern port city, the bank is scrambling to revive a currency that has lost two-thirds of its value since 2015, exacerbating joblessness and leaving millions unable to afford basic food staples.
The central bank expects a $3 billion cash injection from Gulf donors Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to prop up its sagging currency amid soaring inflation, its deputy chief Shokeib Hobeishy said in an interview last week, without giving a timeline.
The potential lifeline, if confirmed, would follow a $2.2 billion infusion by Saudi Arabia to the depleted reserves of a bank that appears ever more dependent on international handouts.


Hobeishy acknowledged that the bank was struggling to assert authority over its branches outside government control, including in Sanaa, which was seized by Iran-aligned Houthi militia in September 2014.
The government moved the bank’s headquarters from the capital in 2016 following suspicion that the Houthis were plundering its reserves to finance their war effort.
The relocation practically left the country with two parallel centers of fiscal policy dealing in one currency.
Yemen’s rivals reached a truce accord last week, but conspicuously absent was an agreement on economic cooperation as the Houthis rejected government calls for the Aden central bank to handle public sector salary payments on both sides, a diplomat who attended the talks told AFP.
The central bank is now “arguably the most dangerous frontline in the Yemen war,” said Wesam Qaid, executive director at Yemen’s Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service.
“The death toll as a result of bombings or land mines and military operations stands in the thousands,” Qaid told AFP.
“Many more have died as a result of poverty, starvation, poor health care as the central bank is caught up in the conflict.”


Yemen’s economy has contracted by 50 percent since the escalation of conflict in 2015 and inflation is projected at over 40 percent this year, according to the World Bank.
A weakened currency has diminished the purchasing power of millions and the private sector is haemorrhaging with businesses shutting down or making layoffs.
New Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, appointed in October, said he was seeking to revive oil exports that once contributed about three-quarters of state revenue.
But such are the fears of insolvency that many Yemenis are afraid of putting their money in local banks.
“Banks often say: ‘We don’t have money. Come tomorrow, come next week’,” said a 54-year-old school employee in Aden.
Businesses also criticize the central bank over cumbersome processes to obtain letters of credit for vital imports — in a country that depends almost entirely on food from abroad.
In a letter sent in November to the prime minister and central bank chief, Aden’s chamber of commerce voiced concern that traders in areas outside government control were struggling to import essential goods. A central bank order requires payment in cash only.
The letter, seen by AFP, said the policy had caused a sharp decline in imports in those densely populated areas, making them prone to famine.
On the other side, businesses say the rebels are obstructing traders and banks in their areas from opening credit lines to Aden.
Central bank chief Mohammed Zemam said this month five Sanaa-based central bank employees had fled to Aden over safety fears and were immediately blacklisted by the Houthis.
“We are asking the Houthis to leave the banking sector alone,” he said in a separate interview in Riyadh.
“This is the only way to feed the people.”