n what would be a major escalation in the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies, US President Donald Trump has reportedly decided to go ahead with planned tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.
An official announcement concerning the move is expected for later today. According to CNN, the president made his decision to green light the tariffs following a meeting on Thursday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Trump first threatened these 25% tariffs back in March, which prompted China to retaliate bypromising to slap tariffs on $50 billion in American imports, including airplanes, automobiles, and soybeans. Not to be outdone, Trump then instructed the US Trade Representative to consider slapping an additional $100 billion in tariffs on China.
After that, things calmed down quite a bit with the two sides appearing to agree to the framework of a deal that would reduce the massive US trade deficit with China. On May 20th, Mnuchin even said that the two sides were “putting the trade war on hold.”
However, less than two weeks later, the White House suddenly announced that plans for the $50 billion tariffs were moving ahead, marking June 15th as the date for when the finalized list of imports would be released, adding that the tariffs would go into effect “shortly thereafter.”
While the White House has said that the tariffs will target Chinese technology goods, an initial list of items released in April show a hodgepodge of 1,300 Chinese exports, including flamethrowers, defibrillators, artificial teeth, and hearing aids.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Beijing earlier this month for trade talks which resulted in no breakthroughs and the Chinese side insisting that if the White House enacted tariffs, they would retaliate in kind.
At a Friday news brief, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated this position, saying, “If the United States takes unilateral protectionist measures and harms China’s interests, we will respond immediately and take necessary measures to firmly safeguard our legitimate rights.”
So, trade war here we come?