WASHINGTON: The Trump administration may be about to slap tariffs of up to 25 per cent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, escalating a confrontation between the world’s two biggest economies and likely squeezing US companies that import everything from handbags to bicycle tires.
The administration could decide to begin taxing the imports equal to nearly 40pc of all the goods China sold the United States last year after a public comment period ends Thursday.
China said it is ready to impose retaliatory tariffs on $60bn worth of US goods if that happens.
“China will have to take necessary countermeasures if the US side ignores the opposition of the overwhelming majority of its enterprises and adopts new tariff measures,” Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Thursday.
The US has already imposed tariffs on $50bn in Chinese products, and Beijing has punched back with tariffs on $50bn in American goods. These US goods include soybeans and beef a direct shot at supporters of President Donald Trump in the US farm belt.
Trump initiated the trade war to punish Beijing for what it says are China’s predatory tactics to try to supplant US technological supremacy. Those tactics, the Office of the US Trade Representative has alleged, include stealing trade secrets through computer hacking and forcing US companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
In the early rounds of the hostilities, the administration targeted Chinese industrial imports to try to spare American consumers from higher import costs. But if Trump adds the $200bn in Chinese products to the target list, American consumers would likely feel the pinch directly. And China has vowed to hit $60bn in US products in retaliation.