China is fully prepared for the U.S.’ threats to escalate the two countries’ trade war and will have to fight back to defend its dignity and the interests of its people, the commerce ministry said on Thursday.
China upholds the use of dialogue to resolve disputes but equal treatment and keeping to promises are pre-requisites for dialogue, it said in a statement.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said that President Donald Trump directed a higher 25-per cent tariff from a previously proposed 10 per cent because China has refused to meet U.S. demands and has imposed retaliatory tariffs.
U.S. President Donald Trump sought to ratchet up pressure on China for trade concessions by proposing a higher 25 per cent tariff on 200 billion dollars worth of Chinese imports, his administration said on Wednesday.
“The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behaviour and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens,” Lighthizer said in a statement.
There have been no formal talks between Washington and Beijing for weeks over Trump’s demands that China makes fundamental changes to its policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers and subsidies for high technology industries.
Two trump administration officials told reporters on a conference call that Trump remains open to communications with Beijing and that through informal conversations the two countries are discussing whether a “fruitful negotiation” is possible.
”We don’t have anything to announce today about a specific event or a specific round of discussions, but communication remains open and we are trying to figure out whether the conditions present themselves for a specific engagement between the two sides,” one of the officials said.
Derek Scissors, a China scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said a 25 per cent tariff rate is more likely to shut out Chinese products and shift American supply chains to other countries, as a 10 per cent duty could be offset by government subsidies and weakness in China’s yuan currency.
“If we’re going to use tariffs, this gives us more flexibility and it’s a more meaningful threat,” he said, adding that Trump’s pressure strategy will not work if he does not resolve trade disputes with U.S. allies such as the European Union, Mexico and Canada.
But the move drew swift condemnation from U.S. business lobby groups worried that tit-for-tat tariffs would start to hamper economic growth.
“Escalating tariffs against China is the wrong approach to address legitimate concerns U.S. businesses have with China’s harmful practices,” said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Each tariff escalation leads to further retaliatory action from China – ultimately inflicting even more harm on American businesses, workers, farmers, ranchers, and consumers.”
The higher tariff rate, if implemented, would apply to a list of goods valued at 200 billion dollars identified by the USTR last month as a response to China’s retaliatory tariffs on an initial round of U.S. tariffs on 34 billion dollars worth of Chinese electronic components, machinery, autos and industrial goods.
Trump has ultimately threatened tariffs on over 500 billion dollars in Chinese goods, covering virtually all U.S. imports from China.
The USTR said it will extend a public comment period for the $200 billion list to Sept. 5 from Aug. 30 due to the possible tariff rate rise.
The list, unveiled on July 10, hits American consumers harder than previous rounds, with targeted goods ranging from Chinese tilapia fish and dog food to furniture, lighting products, printed circuit boards and building materials.