USA tariffs on Chinese imports escalate trade dispute

A cargo ship carrying containers stops at Qingdao Port

US President Donald Trump is believed to have approved tariffs of around US$50bn on Chinese goods, with an official announcement expected on Friday.

China's Commerce Ministry responded Friday by saying it would immediately impose penalties of "equal scale" on American goods.

China and the USA are major seafood trading partners beyond just lobster, and the new tariffs would apply to dozens of products that China imports from the US, including salmon, tuna and crab.

China's retaliation list was increased more than six-fold from a version released in April, but the value was kept at $50 billion, as some high-value items such as commercial aircraft were deleted. US companies that rely on the targeted imports - and can't find substitutes - can apply for exemptions from the tariffs.

President Trump's first round of long-threatened tariffs against China are now a reality, pushing two of the world's biggest economies closer to an all-out trade war.

China has pledged any tariffs will void progress made in recent trade talks between Beijing and Washington and has drawn up its own list of $50 billion in U.S. goods to target.

The current White House accuses China of unfair trade practices, including acquisition of American intellectual property and technology, which has allowed it to make that difference.

By contrast, the Trump administration earlier this year imposed steep tariffs on imported washing machines. Another 280 or so still need to undergo a public comment period, and will take effect later.

On Thursday, agricultural associations including the American Soybean Association (ASA), the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Corn Growers Association issued an appeal to Congress to stop the tariffs. They say "Made in China 2025" appears to leave them little or no place in those industries.

Some Republican lawmakers and pro-business groups criticized Trump's action.

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Progress seemed to be made in late May, after China agreed to cut tariffs on US automobiles, and Trump pledged support for ZTE, a Chinese company affected negatively by USA sanctions, as NPR's Camila Domonoske reported. The United States now dominates those industries, but Chinese government support could make it hard for USA companies to compete.

A ministry statement gave no details of what US goods would be hit by Beijing's retaliatory tariffs. "This is not the right approach", U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donahue said in a statement.

Beijing and Washington had held three rounds of high-level talks since early May but failed to reach a compromise. Trump has been unmoved by a Chinese offer to buy an additional $70 billion worth of US farm and energy products and other goods, according to people familiar with the matter.

Matthew Cheslock, an equity trader with Virtu Financial, said the real question is whether there will be a second round of tariff measures. He added: "Our hope is that it doesn't lead to a rash reaction from China".

"Neither side will be brought to its knees - which is one reason to think the trade dispute could drag on", Capital Economics said.

Trump is hardly the first foreign leader to complain.

Although shares of some tariff-sensitive companies fell on Wall Street, the stock market overall fell only modestly.

Beijing said Friday it will fight back with tariffs of its own. But he said that underlying strong economic fundamentals in the United States would dampen the market impact.

Trump has already imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and European allies, sparking anger and retaliatory threats from some of America's closest longtime allies.

China is adept at playing countries and companies off against one another, Jennifer Hillman, a Georgetown University law professor, testified last week before the U.S.

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