China threatened Friday to tax an additional $60 billion a year worth of U.S. imports if the Trump administration imposes its own new levies on Chinese goods.
BEIJING — China threatened Friday to tax an additional $60 billion a year worth of U.S. imports if the Trump administration imposes its own new levies on Chinese goods.
The threat comes two days after President Donald Trump ordered his administration to consider increasing the rate of tariffs it has already proposed on $200 billion a year of Chinese goods — everything from chemicals to handbags — to 25 percent from 10 percent.
The United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies, have for months been engaged in an escalating trade dispute. While they have targeted each other’s products, the interconnected nature of the global economy has meant that other regions, like Europe, have also been caught up in the back-and-forth.
Beijing and Washington, D.C., imposed matching tariffs last month on $34 billion apiece of each other’s products and have plans to add $16 billion worth of goods to their lists. Previous rounds of tariffs cover a lengthy list of products, from steel and aluminum to washing machines.
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The latest Chinese tariffs would, if implemented, be up to 25 percent, and cover 5,207 tariff categories, the country’s commerce ministry said in a statement on its website.
“Because the U.S. side has repeatedly escalated the tension, disregarding the interests of enterprises and consumers of both sides, China has to take necessary countermeasures to defend the country’s dignity and the interests of the Chinese people, defend free trade and the multilateral system, and defend the common interests of all countries in the world,” the ministry said.
China’s decision to threaten $60 billion of U.S. goods is the first time this year that Beijing has not tried to match D.C.’s tariffs dollar for dollar. China instead is threatening roughly two-fifths of its U.S. purchases after Trump threatened two-fifths of China’s much larger exports to the U.S., said Tu Xinquan, executive dean of the China Institute for World Trade Organization Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
“It’s more proportionate,” Tu said.
China wants to find a negotiated solution to the two sides’ trade policy differences, but also could not simply ignore Trump’s threat earlier this week, Tu added.
Trump ordered the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Wednesday to consider the possibility of 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion a year worth of Chinese goods. Those tariffs could be imposed in place of 10 percent tariffs already under discussion. Those tariffs have not taken effect, and a final decision on their size and scope is not expected until next month.
Beijing did not really have the option of responding dollar for dollar because China simply does not buy that much from the United States. China sells goods each year to the United States worth nearly four times as much as it buys.
But Chinese officials have suggested in recent weeks that if the United States proceeds with tariffs on a very wide range of Chinese goods, then Beijing may also retaliate against the Chinese-owned operations of big U.S. companies. From Apple to General Motors, a long list of large U.S. enterprises have transferred extensive operations to China and could be vulnerable to any response from Beijing.
The iPhones, Chevrolets and other products manufactured and sold in China by U.S. companies are mostly designed in the United States, and the Trump administration has declared various Chinese industries to be threatening U.S. national security, illegally copying foreign intellectual property or causing widespread job losses in the United States. China has denied violating international trade norms.