China trade war back in focus

China Chinese flag        , The Canadian Press

President Trump has instructed USA trade representatives to increase the tariffs it levies on around $200 billion of Chinese exports, from 10% to 25%, citing China's failure to address United States concerns over "unfair trading practices" that include "forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft". "Unilateral threats and pressure will only be counterproductive". But they have rejected changing technology development plans they see as a path to prosperity and global influence.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump directed the increase from a previously proposed 10 percent duty because China has refused to meet U.S. demands and has imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. But Wang Yi, the Chinese government's top diplomat, said US efforts to pressure China would be in vain, urging its trade policymakers to "calm down".

The issue of China's response to USA threats of higher tariffs also came up during the daily news briefing by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

In early July, the U.S. government imposed 25 per cent tariffs on an initial $34 billion of Chinese imports.

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China's imports from the United States a year ago totaled $153.9 billion.

The highest penalties in Friday's list would hit honey, vegetables, mushrooms and other farm goods, targeting areas that supported Trump in the 2016 election.

"Escalating tariffs against China is the wrong approach to address legitimate concerns US businesses have with China's harmful practices", said Myron Brilliant, head of worldwide affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce.

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"The news that Washington was planning to increase tariffs on Chinese goods was already making traders nervous ahead of the Fed and has been a source of USDJPY weakness", says Joel Kruger, an FX strategit at LMAX Exchange.

Chinese authorities warned earlier that if the dispute escalated, they would adopt unspecified "comprehensive measures". In this scenario, to which Moody's assigns a 60% probability, USA gross domestic product would be reduced by about 0.1 percentage point at the peak of the trade confrontation, in mid 2019. That prompted concern among American companies that retaliation might expand to disrupting their operations in China. "So is the United States trying to put tariffs on its own companies?"

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry appealed to Washington to negotiate but could not confirm reports the two sides were setting up talks.

"We advise the United States to be level-headed and avoid simply acting on impulse, otherwise it will ultimately hurt itself".

"European Commission figures released this week showed that 37 percent of the EU's soybean imports in June came from the United States, compared with 9 percent in July 2017".

The Commerce Ministry said the objective of the US tariffs is to restrict China's "peaceful development"-not, as the USA says, to retaliate for China's unfair trade practices with the goal of narrowing the wide trade gap between the two countries".

"Promise fatigue" is a phrase commonly used by both American and European businesses when describing trade negotiations with China.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap surged 7.3 per cent to $46.3 billion.

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