Politics

Trump reignites the China trade war — here's how we got here

President Donald Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attend a working dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 1, 2018. 
Kevin Lemarque | CNBC
Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's latest threat to put tariffs on Chinese goods follows a years long push by the president to force China to change its trade practices. 
  • In saying he would increase existing duties and levy new ones, the president cited slow progress toward a trade agreement with China. 
  • Investors have watched closely as Washington and Beijing try to avoid more damage from the escalating trade conflict. 

President Donald Trump's latest threat to slap duties on Chinese goods follows months during which the White House has see-sawed between optimism about a trade breakthrough and tough threats of harsher tariffs on China.

On Sunday, Trump said that tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would increase to 25% on May 10, despite repeated claims by the administration in recent weeks that trade talks with Beijing were going well. Trump also threatened to impose 25% tariffs on an additional $325 billion of Chinese goods "shortly."

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China trade deal still likely despite Trump's threats, says expert

A delegation of Chinese negotiators set to visit Washington, D.C., on Thursday and Friday is expected to include Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, CNBC reported. Liu's presence offers a positive sign for market watchers, many of whom considered it more likely that Trump would follow through on his newest threat of tariffs if the vice premier did not attend.

While the president's protectionist moves have scared some businesses, farmers and lawmakers, Trump has some progress to show from his year of trade maneuvers. Last fall, he agreed to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The stock market has posted major gains in 2019, in part due to optimism that trade talks with China will achieve a deal that will reverse the steep tariffs imposed by both sides. But global markets sold off sharply Monday on Trump's latest threat to boost tariffs further.

The U.S. imports goods from China totaling $539.5 billion and the U.S. trade deficit stood at $419.2 billion in 2018, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. If Trump follows through with his threats, virtually all goods imported from China to the U.S. would face some sort of tariff.

Here is a timeline of the U.S.-China trade conflict since the Trump administration embarked on a trade warn between the world's two largest economies: