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Trump going ahead with taxes on $16B in Chinese imports

August 8, 2018

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it will go ahead with imposing 25 percent tariffs on an additional $16 billion in Chinese imports.

Customs officials will begin collecting the border tax Aug. 23, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said. The list is heavy on industrial products such as steam turbines and iron girders.

Tuesday's announcement was not a surprise. In April, the administration had announced plans to slap tariffs on 1,333 Chinese product lines worth $50 billion a year. After receiving public feedback, it cut 515 products from the list in June and added 284. On July 6, the U.S. began taxing the 818 goods, worth $34 billion, remaining from the April list.

In the meantime, it sought public comment on the new items. On Tuesday, the administration said it had decided to go ahead with tariffs on 279 of the 284 items added in June; they're worth about $16 billion a year.

China has been retaliating in kind.

And the conflict is likely to escalate: The administration is preparing tariffs of up to 25 percent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese products. And President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on virtually everything China sells to the United States. Chinese imports of goods and services into the United States last year amounted to nearly $524 billion.

The world's two biggest economies are locked in a trade dispute over Washington's charges that China uses predatory tactics in a drive to supplant U.S. technological supremacy. The alleged tactics include cyber-theft and a requirement that American companies hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

The total could increase soon. The USTR is reviewing 10 percent tariffs on a further $200 billion in Chinese imports, and is even considering raising the rate to 25 percent. Those duties could be in place after a comment period ends on Sept. 6.

Still, there’s little sign the trade threat is hurting shipments just yet. Chinese data Wednesday showed imports jumped and exports remained robust in July.

Among the products removed from the earlier list on $16 billion of imports were shipping containers, including those used by freight companies. Schneider National Carriers Inc. and other firms testified during a hearing July 24-25 in Washington that there are no U.S. manufacturers and that the containers are almost exclusively made in China.

Also removed were splitting, slicing or paring machines. Joseph Cohen, chief executive officer of New Jersey-based Snow Joe LLC, which makes log splitters, had asked that they be taken off the list.

The final list did not remove tariffs on fertilizer distributors, which Jane Hardy, chief executive officer of Brinly-Hardy Co. In Indiana, testified on July 24 could be the “nail in our coffin” for her firm after 179 years in business.

Over the weekend, Trump said he had the upper hand in the trade war, while Beijing responded through state media by saying it was ready to endure the economic fallout.

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