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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 14:50 PM | 23-03-2018

China threatens US with tariffs

China warned the United States on Friday (March 23, 2018) that it was “not afraid of a trade war” as it threatened tariffs on $3 billion worth of US goods in retaliation over President Donald Trump’s moves against Chinese imports.

Beijing unveiled a hit list of products that could face duties of up to 25 percent, from fresh fruit to pork and wine, though it stopped short of pulling the trigger as it indicated its readiness to negotiate an agreement.

The latest trade action sent stocks diving as fears rise that the US, which accuses China of mass theft of intellectual property and other unfair practices, could provoke a damaging trade war, AFP reported.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 700 points, while Tokyo closed 4.5 percent lower, Hong Kong fell 2.45 percent and Shanghai sank more than three percent.

“China does not want to fight a trade war, but it is absolutely not afraid of a trade war,” the commerce ministry said.

Hours earlier, Trump signed an order that also could result in restrictions on Chinese investment in the US, saying it would be the “first of many” trade actions.

“We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on,” Trump said as he signed the new trade order, which could include duties as high as 25 percent.

The action did not immediately impose any new tariffs, but within two weeks US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is due to publish a list of the products that could be hit with tariffs.

China’s commerce ministry warned that a 15 percent tariff on 120 goods worth almost $1 billion -- including fresh fruit, nuts and wine -- would be imposed if the US fails to reach a “trade compensation agreement” within an unspecified timeframe.

In a second step, a 25 percent tariff would be imposed on eight goods totalling nearly $2 billion, including pork and aluminium scrap, after “further evaluating the impact of the US measures on China,” the statement said.

The measures were specifically in response to US steel and aluminium tariffs, which were taking effect on Friday.

The list noticeably does not include soybeans, a key US export from Trump-voting states that Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times had suggested should be targeted by Beijing.

Betty Wang, an economist at ANZ bank, said China’s reaction is “relatively mild.”

“From China’s perspective, it absolutely does not want to see a trade war. Coming back to the negotiation table is a relatively good result,” Wang said.

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