BEIJING — China said Wednesday it will impose tariffs on an additional $16 billion in U.S. autos and energy products in a sign that Beijing and Washington are digging in for what could be a long and bruising trade conflict.
The move came just hours after the Trump administration confirmed plans to proceed with a previously-announced round of import taxes on a range of Chinese products worth an equivalent amount.
The latest tariff salvos stem from President Trump’s complaint that China is unfairly acquiring American technology via coercive joint ventures with U.S. companies, cybertheft and other violations of intellectual property rights.
After months of skirmishing between the two economic powers, U.S. customs officers began collecting the first tariffs from importers of Chinese products on July 6. China immediately retaliated with similar tariffs on U.S. goods, including soybeans, pork and poultry, which were designed to hurt Trump voters in rural America.
When the additional tariffs go into effect Aug. 23, both sides will have taxes on about $50 billion worth of imports from the other.
Trump also is moving forward with plans to tax a further $200 billion in Chinese products as soon as September and has threatened to eventually impose tariffs on all Chinese imports, which totalled $505 billion last year, unless China capitulates.
The administration’s hard-line stance is stirring doubts among congressional Republicans and business leaders who fear it may rupture profitable commercial relations. With no talks taking place between Chinese and American officials, some analysts say Trump’s use of tariffs may be designed to reverse a quarter-century of growing economic ties between the two countries, rather than to spur diplomatic bargaining.
“Their plan may not be to get China to cry uncle. It may be pulling up the drawbridge,”said Scott Kennedy, director of the project on Chinese business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Both sides are definitely serious and they’re going to go blow for blow.”
Trump has claimed in recent tweets that “tariffs are working far better than anyone ever anticipated,” linking them to a downturn that has shaved nearly a quarter from the value of Chinese stocks since late January. Along with the trade spat, Chinese stocks have suffered from slowing growth in the debt-laden economy.
But China has notched a pair of concrete victories in the trade showdown, according to Jeff Moon, a former U.S. trade negotiator in the Obama administration.
After complaints by Chinese leaders, Trump agreed to reverse a U.S. enforcement action that would have caused ZTE, a prominent state-owned telecom company, to go out of business. And Chinese regulators last month barred Qualcomm, a U.S. telecom leader, from completing its $44 billion acquisition of Netherlands-based NXP, which would have made it a more formidable competitor for Chinese companies.
“There are only two hard outcomes so far and China’s winning 2-0,” Moon said.
In a statement Wednesday, the Chinese Commerce Ministry charged that the United States “once again put domestic law above international law by imposing ‘very unreasonable’ new tariffs on Chinese goods.”
China’s announcement is a direct response to new duties on Chinese goods imported into the United States, announced Tuesday in Washington. Those new tariffs, totaling $16 billion, will be levied against 279 products, including motorcycles, steam turbines and railway cars.
After months of escalation, business communities in both countries are wondering when and how the trade confrontation will end.
“With each successive round of tariffs, Trump continues to back China into a corner, forcing Beijing to respond in kind,” said James Zimmerman, a partner in the Beijing office of international law firm Perkins Coie and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
“There is no off-ramp, and Trump has given China little wiggle room to save face and come to the bargaining table,” he said. “By continuing to up the ante, Trump is, in effect, publicly demanding an unconditional surrender from Beijing.”
Washington Post writer Emily Rauhala contributed to this report.
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