China hikes tariffs on US imports as trade row intensifies

The conflict stems from US complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Beijing: China imposed new tariff hikes on US goods on Monday and accused Washington of bullying, giving no sign of compromise in an intensifying battle over technology that is weighing on global economic growth.

The General Administration of Customs said it started collecting additional taxes of 5 and 10 per cent on a USD 60 billion list of 5,207 American goods from honey to industrial chemicals at noon.

That coincided with the time for President Donald Trump's planned tariff hike on USD 200 billion of Chinese imports to take effect, though there was no immediate US government confirmation it was collecting the higher charges. The conflict stems from US complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

American officials say Chinese plans for state-led development of global competitors in robotics and other technologies violate its market-opening obligations and might erode US industrial leadership.

Communist leaders offered to narrow their politically sensitive, multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more natural gas and other American exports. But they have rejected pressure to change industry plans they see as a path to prosperity and global influence.

Monday's tariff hike follows a report by The Wall Street Journal that Chinese officials pulled out of a meeting to discuss possible talks proposed by Washington.

The Chinese government had given no public indication whether it would accept the invitation. Envoys last met August 22 in Washington but reported no progress. With no settlement in sight, forecasters say the conflict between the two biggest economies could trim global economic growth through 2020.

On Monday, the ratings agency Fitch cut its forecasts for next year's Chinese and global economic growth by 0.1 percentage points to 6.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively.

"The trade war is now a reality," said Fitch's chief economist, Brian Coulton, in a report.

"The downside risks to our global growth forecasts have also increased." Earlier, the two sides imposed 25 per cent penalties on USD 34 billion of each other's goods in July and another USD 16 billion in August. Business groups say American companies also report Chinese regulators are starting to disrupt their operations through slower customs clearance and more environmental and other inspections.

The first round of American tariffs targeted goods Washington said benefit from improper Chinese industrial policies. American regulators tried to limit the impact on the public by focusing on industrial machinery and components, but the latest USD 200 billion list of imports includes bicycles, wooden furniture and other consumer goods.

Chinese regulators have tried to cushion the blow on their own economy by targeting American goods such as soybeans, natural gas, fruit, whisky and automobiles that are available from Europe, Latin America and other Asian countries.

Trump threatened last week to add an additional USD 267 billion in Chinese imports to the target list if Beijing retaliated for the latest US taxes. That would cover nearly everything China sells to the United States.

Also Monday, the Chinese government accused the Trump administration in a report of "trade bullyism" and of preaching "economic hegemony."

The toughly worded report said Beijing wants a "reasonable solution" but gave no indication of possible concessions. It affirmed China's stance that it is a developing country, a claim that rankles Washington, Europe and other trading partners.

They point to China's status as a major manufacturer and a growing competitor in smartphones and other technology. They say Beijing is no longer entitled to concessions it was granted when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, such as the right to limit access to its finance, energy and other markets. Chinese leaders have tried without success to recruit German, France, South Korea and other trading partners as allies against Washington. They criticize Trump's tactics but echo US complaints about Chinese market barriers and industry plans.

The Trump administration has "has brazenly preached unilateralism, protectionism and economic hegemony, making false accusations against many countries and regions, particularly China, intimidating other countries through economic measures such as imposing tariffs, and attempting to impose its own interests on China through extreme pressure," said the official Xinhua News Agency.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China warned last week Washington was underestimating Beijing's determination. It said a "downward spiral" seemed certain. Chinese leaders have announced changes this year including tariff cuts and plans to end ownership limits in their auto industry.

But businesspeople who have met senior planners say they express no willingness even to discuss changes to technology development plans.

As the fight intensifies, China is running out of US imports for retaliation. Imports of American goods last year totalled USD 153.9 billion while the United States bought Chinese goods worth USD 429.8 billion, according to Chinese customs data. Monday's increase leaves Beijing with about USD 40 billion of goods for penalties while the Washington has almost USD 200 billion.

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