The United States and China slapped tit-for-tat duties on $34 billion worth of each other’s imports. China blames U.S. for 'largest-scale trade war'
Hours before Washington’s deadline for the tariffs to take effect, U.S. President Donald Trump upped the ante, warning that the United States may ultimately target over $500 billion worth of Chinese goods, or roughly the total amount of U.S. imports from China last year.
China’s commerce ministry, in a statement shortly after the U.S. deadline passed at 0401 GMT on Friday, said that it was forced to retaliate, meaning imported U.S. goods including cars, soybeans, and lobsters also faced 25 percent tariffs.
China’s soymeal futures fell more than 2 percent on Friday afternoon before recovering most of those losses, amid initial market confusion over whether Beijing had actually implemented the tariffs, which it later confirmed it had.
“We can probably say that the trade war has officially started,” said Chen Feixiang, professor of applied economics at Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Antai Colege of Economics and Management.
“If this ends at $34 billion, it will have a marginal effect on both economies, but if it escalates to $500 billion like Trump said then it’s going to have a big impact for both countries.”
Friday’s long-expected tariff volley fueled fear that a prolonged and escalating battle would deal a blow to global trade, investment and growth, while also damaging U.S. farmers who stand to lose revenues and potentially driving up food prices in China.
“Trade war is never a solution,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at a news briefing with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Sofia before a summit with 16 central and eastern European countries.
“China would never start a trade war but if any party resorts to an increase of tariffs then China will take measures in response to protect development interests.”
In the run-up to Friday, there was no sign of renewed negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials, business sources in Washington and Beijing said.
“Our baseline forecast assumes only a modest further escalation in the trade ‘war’ this summer,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a Friday note.
“However, we can’t rule out a full-blown, recession-inducing ‘trade war’,” it said.
The dispute has roiled financial markets including stocks, currencies and the global trade of commodities from soybeans to coal in recent weeks.
Chinese shares, battered in the run-up to the tariff deadline, reversed earlier losses to close higher, but the yuan remained weaker against the dollar. Asian equities wobbled but also managed to end up.