President Donald Trump threw his biggest punch yet at China, imposing tariffs on an additional US$200 billion ($305b) worth of Chinese imports and gambling that American consumers are willing to pay more for popular products to wring trade concessions from Beijing.
Trump also threatened to add tariffs on about $267 billion of additional imports if China retaliates against US farmers or other industries.
The president has described the tariffs as leverage in negotiating Chinese policy changes with Chinese President Xi Jinping. China has retaliated in kind, hitting American soybeans, among other goods, in a shot at the president's supporters in the US farm belt.
Collection of tariffs on the long-anticipated list will start September 24 but the rate will increase to 25 percent by the end of 2018, allowing US companies some time to adjust their supply chains to alternate countries, a senior administration official said.
USTR has removed about 300 product categories from tariff list and has cut some subsets of products, but total value still "approximately $200 billion".
"For months, we have urged China to change these unfair practices, and give fair and reciprocal treatment to American companies".
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According to Reuters, smart watches from Apple and Fitbit, as well as some consumer safety products, such as bicycle helmets and baby auto seats, are exempt from the new tariffs. According to a preliminary list released in July, the administration is now targeting $8.4 billion in plastics, $64.8 billion in electrical machinery, $55.1 billion in appliances and $25.8 billion in furniture as well as broad ranges of seafood and meat. China has said it will hit back. "But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices".
Stocks fell Monday as markets braced for major escalations in the US-China trade war.
The week started with early morning tweets from Trump claiming the cost increases due to the tariff spat have been "unnoticeable" and any country not making fair deals will be "tariffed".
This has raised concerns that China could retaliate with non-tariff trade measures. "At this stage, it is entirely possible that talks proceed, but it is also clear that Trump wants to maintain a hardline position on this front, suggesting more rounds of price action pinball".
The decision throws into doubt efforts to reach a diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict.
Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, said in NY on Monday: "We stand ready to negotiate with China any time if they are willing to move towards serious talks to remedy trade problems".
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The administration earlier this month floated the idea of talks led by Mnuchin, with Liu expected to lead the Beijing delegation. "My administration will not remain idle when those interests are under attack". He added that if China retaliates then there'll be another $267bn in tariffs coming.
If he does go ahead with a further $267bn worth of tariffs, it would mean virtually all of China's USA exports would be subject to new duties.
The administration held six days of public hearings on the proposed $200 billion round of tariffs in August, which were dominated by companies warning that the United States no longer had the capacity to produce replacement products for the Chinese imports that would be hit by tariffs. Through the end of August, the administration had collected almost US$22b in revenue because of its new tariffs, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation.
Trump "has not been satisfied with the talks with China on this", Kudlow said.
Officials from both countries have met four times for formal talks, most recently in August, when Treasury's undersecretary for worldwide affairs, David Malpass, led discussions in Washington with Chinese vice minister Wang Shouwen.
Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, speaks during a meeting at the Economic Club of New York, Sept. 17, 2018, in New York.
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