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  • U.S. President Donald Trump speaks, while calling former Vice President Joe Biden “sleepy Joe” during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. U.S., August 1, 2019.

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks, while calling former Vice President Joe Biden “sleepy Joe” during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. U.S., August 1, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 August 2019
Opinion

“If America does pass these tariffs then China will have to take the necessary countermeasures to protect the country’s core and fundamental interests."

China did not take lightly to U.S. President Donald Trump's recent threats to impose new tariffs, as Beijing has vowed to take retaliatory measures against Washington should they go through with this trade tax.

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On Friday, China warned the U.S. that they would not be blackmailed and vowed tit-for-tat measures if Trump goes through with his threat to slap a 10 percent tariff on US$300 billion of Chinese imports next months,​​​​. The tariffs threaten a sharp escalation in the trade row between the world’s biggest economies.

Trump stunned financial markets on Thursday by saying he plans to levy the additional duties from Sept. 1. It marked an abrupt end to a truce in a year-long trade war that has slowed global growth and disrupted supply chains.

Beijing would not give an inch under pressure from Washington, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

“If America does pass these tariffs then China will have to take the necessary countermeasures to protect the country’s core and fundamental interests,” Hua told a news briefing in Beijing.

“We won’t accept any maximum pressure, intimidation or blackmail. On the major issues of principle we won’t give an inch,” she said, adding that China hoped the United States would “give up its illusions” and return to negotiations based on mutual respect and equality.

Trump also threatened to further raise tariffs if Chinese President Xi Jinping fails to move more quickly to strike a trade deal.

The newly threatened duties, which Trump announced in a series of tweets after his top trade negotiators briefed him on a lack of progress in talks in Shanghai this week, would extend tariffs to nearly all Chinese goods that the United States imports.

The president later said if trade discussions failed to progress he could raise tariffs further - even beyond the 25 percent levy he has already imposed on US$250 billion of imports from China.

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Nations event in Thailand that additional tariffs were “definitely not a constructive way to resolve economic and trade frictions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Bangkok, decried “decades of bad behavior” by China on trade and said Trump had the determination to fix it.

The news hit financial markets hard. On Friday, Asian and European stocks took a battering and safe-haven assets such as the yen, gold and government bonds jumped as investors rushed for cover. [MKTS/GLOB]

Retail associations in the United States predicted a spike in consumer prices, hitting consumer stocks on Thursday on Wall Street, where Target Corp tumbled 4.2 percent, Macy’s Inc fell 6 percent and Nordstrom Inc was down 6.2 percent.

Asked about the impact on financial markets, Trump told reporters: “I’m not concerned about that at all.”

Moody’s said the new tariffs would weigh on the global economy at a time when growth is already slowing in the United States, China and the euro zone.

The tariffs may also force the Federal Reserve to again cut interest rates to protect the U.S. economy from trade-policy risks, experts said.

One Chinese official told Reuters it was not the first time Trump had “flip-flopped,” and that though the time between the talks being declared constructive and Trump’s threat of new tariffs was short, officials in Beijing were already prepared.

“Discussion followed by a fight has become the normal pattern,” the official said.

Possible retaliatory measures by China could include tariffs, a ban on the export of rare earths that are used in everything from military equipment to consumer electronics and penalties against U.S. companies in China, analysts say.

So far, Beijing has refrained from slapping tariffs on U.S. crude oil and big aircraft, after cumulatively imposing additional retaliatory tariffs of up to 25 percent on about US$110 billion of U.S. goods since the trade war broke out last year.

China is also drafting a list of “unreliable entities” — foreign firms that have harmed Chinese interests. U.S. delivery giant FedEx is under investigation by China.

“China will deliver each retaliation methodically, and deliberately, one by one,” ING economist Iris Pang wrote in a note.

“We believe China’s strategy in this trade war escalation will be to slow down the pace of negotiation and tit-for-tat retaliation. This could lengthen the process of retaliation until the upcoming U.S. presidential election,” Pang added.

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