Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Trump to Pull Tariff Trigger at Midnight in Trade-War Escalation

US China US 'firing at itself' with trade measures: China
Ellis Copeland | 06 July, 2018, 11:34

China's customs agency said Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods would take effect immediately after the United States duties on Chinese goods kicked in, although Beijing has said it will not be the first to pull the trigger.

As a possible follow-up, the USA has a public hearing scheduled for July 24 to weigh tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods including machinery and plastics.

That is why the Trump administration's trade policy that claims to protect U.S.jobs by restricting imports from China receives a certain degree of support. All told, U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is prepared to levy higher taxes on up to $450 billion in Chinese imports, or almost 90 per cent of the goods China shipped to the United States a year ago. Import duties on such a large volume of goods would be highly disruptive and impact all the major auto exporting countries/regions such as Mexico, Canada, Japan, the European Union, and South Korea.

But if the scope of the tariffs widened then New Zealand could be affected - either through intermediary goods sold into the U.S. or China for further processing or because markets were disrupted more broadly.

Similarly, China is placing 25% tariffs on a host of goods including crude oil and soybeans.

China's imports from the USA were just US$130 billion a year ago and so Beijing does not have the capacity to hit back in kind, raising speculation it could respond by creating administrative headaches for companies in China.

Beijing has announced a series of headline-grabbing initiatives including "Made in China 2025", which calls for creating Chinese global competitors in robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other fields.

Chinese stocks slipped on Thursday and the yuan steadied from earlier losses as a targeted cut of reserve requirements for banks took effect amid the heightened trade tensions.

There did not appear to be any direct guidance to hold up cargoes, but some customs departments were waiting until they had received official instructions from the central government on whether to start collecting the hefty new import tariffs on hundreds of products, the sources said.

A US industry source said: "There is a 99 percent chance that tariffs go into force on Friday".

He said that would rise to a full 4 per cent of the global total if Washington, Beijing and other governments follow through on tariff threats.

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The absence of an official statement enforcing the tariffs also sowed confusion among nervous commodity traders, adding to choppy futures trading as soymeal and soybean contracts came under heavy selling pressure in tradeing.

Even before the first shots were fired, the prospect of a trade war was worrying investors.

Still, anti-trade rhetoric underpinned Trump's election win, and if anything the former NY real estate developer has doubled down on using tariffs in spats with both foes and allies. "I think products made in China are the best", said one shopper in a Beijing grocery story, who gave his name as Yang.

"We can expect further damage to the USA economy, workers, companies and consumers", he said.

Instead of using tariffs, the US could've sought to join with the European Union and Japan to bring a case against China at the World Trade Organization.

By contrast, American companies received $124.3 billion past year for intellectual property licenses.

"The tail risk of a Sino-US trade war is getting fatter", said Chi Lo, greater China senior economist at BNP Paribas Asset Management in Hong Kong. But recent US tax cuts and spending increases will probably buoy the dollar and the nation's current-account deficit anyway, the International Monetary Fund said this week. These tactics include cyber-theft as well as requiring American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to China's market. It's also a position long championed by Democrats, although they have been mostly silent since Mr. Trump took up the cause.

"This continued escalation poses a serious threat to growth and recovery in all countries, and we are beginning to see this reflected in some forward-looking indicators", WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement.

Some prominent Chinese experts say Beijing may have miscalculated the pain the USA tariffs could inflict on export manufacturers' already razor-thin margins, and overplayed its hand.

"The progress of China's economy can not be reversed by any force".

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