World Economy

China promises fast response as Trump readies tariffs

Key Points
  • China vowed on Friday to strike back quickly if the United States hurts its interests.
  • The warnings came hours before U.S. President Donald Trump was due to unveil revisions to a tariff list targeting $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.
  • Washington and Beijing appeared increasingly to be headed toward a trade war.
VIDEO4:1304:13
White House to roll out new list of tariffs on Chinese goods

China vowed on Friday to strike back quickly if the United States hurts its interests, hours before U.S. President Donald Trump was due to unveil revisions to a tariff list targeting $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Washington and Beijing appeared increasingly to be headed toward a trade war after several rounds of negotiations failed to resolve U.S. complaints over Chinese industrial policy, market access, and a $375 billion trade gap.

"If the United States takes unilateral, protectionist measures, harming China's interests, we will quickly react and take necessary steps to resolutely protect our fair, legitimate rights," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular daily news briefing.

Trump was due to give details later on Friday of a revised list of 800 product categories, down from 1,300, according to an administration official and an industry source familiar with the list.

Trump has made up his mind to impose "pretty significant" tariffs on Chinese goods, another administration official said on Thursday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on March 13, 2015 in Beijing, China.
Feng Li | Getty Images

It remained unclear when Trump would impose the tariffs, if he decides to do so. Several industry lobbyists told Reuters they expected the move to come as early as Friday, with publication of a Federal Register notice, or it could be put off until next week.

Washington has also completed a second list of possible tariffs on another $100 billion in Chinese goods, in the expectation that China will respond to the initial U.S. tariff list in kind, sources told Reuters.

China has published its own list of threatened tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods, including soybeans, aircraft, and autos, and has said it would hit back if Washington followed up with further measures.

Beijing and Washington have held three rounds of high-level talks since early May that have yet to yield a compromise, with Trump unmoved by a Chinese offer to buy an additional $70 billion worth of U.S. farm and energy products and other goods, people familiar with the matter have said.

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China will definitely retaliate to any new US trade tariffs: Strategist

"The threshold to come to a consensus or a compromise seems high," Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia-Pacific at J.P. Morgan Asset Management wrote in a note.

Renewed worries about an escalating trade conflict sent shares in Chinese telecoms gear maker ZTE tumbling on Friday. The company has lost 30 percent of its market value since resuming trade this week.

ZTE last week agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to the U.S. government to end a crippling supplier ban imposed after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

Trump's revised tariff list may exclude some consumer items from an earlier proposal to focus more on goods related to Beijing's Made in China 2025 program, according to a Eurasia Group report.

Industrial policy impasse

The Made in China 2025 initiative is aimed at accelerating China's prowess and narrowing its competitiveness gap with the United States and other industrial powers in key technologies such as robotics and semiconductors.

While China has in recent months made incremental market-opening reforms in industries for which critics in the foreign business community say they were already planned, it has shown no inclination to yield on its core industrial policies.

"U.S.-China trade tensions will be long-lasting," said Yifan Hu, regional chief investment officer and chief China economist at UBS Wealth Management told a briefing in Beijing.

"The trade skirmish is not just about the trade deficit and exchange rates, but about the rules of the game, market openness and intellectual property. It is also about values, governance, and geopolitical disagreements," she said.