Politics

US and China agree to continue tariff talks. Here's a timeline of how the trade war started

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Japan is just the latest step in a back and forth with massive implications for the global economy.
  • The U.S. president has long accused Beijing of unfair trade practices that sap American manufacturing jobs, and ran for president in 2016 on cracking down on China.
Police officers are seen in front of a cargo ship with containers at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 6, 2018.
Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping emerged from a high-stakes meeting Saturday agreeing to proceed with trade talks after escalating tariffs between the two nations threatened to disrupt the world economy.

"We discussed a lot of things and we're right back on track," Trump said after meeting Xi.

The summit, on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Japan, was a continuation of Trump's years-long crusade to overhaul the U.S. trade relationship with China. He has long accused Beijing of unfair trade practices that sap American manufacturing jobs, and ran for president in 2016 on cracking down on China.

Nearly two-and-a-half years into his White House term, Trump finds himself embroiled in a trade war that threatens to damage the U.S. economy and hamstring his 2020 reelection bid. He has used tariffs to try to force China to the negotiating table. The president aims to end the conflict while forcing China to address trade deficits, intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, among other grievances.

Trump's face-to-face meeting with Xi at the G-20 summit is just the latest step in a back and forth with massive implications for the global economy.

Here's a timeline of the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

May 19, 2014: Trump sets the stage

Donald Trump speaks at the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony on July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Leah Puttkammer | FilmMagic

Before launching his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump repeatedly called for a crackdown on China's trade practices. In one May 2014 tweet, he said: "Remember, China is not a friend of the United States!"

May 1, 2016: A campaign rallying cry

As a presidential candidate, Trump makes pushing back against alleged Chinese trade abuses a campaign priority. "We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing," he said at a rally in Indiana in May 2016.

May 11, 2017: An early positive step

The U.S. and China strike trade deals that cover products such as beef and poultry, but leave disagreements over steel, aluminium and other issues unresolved.

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Vietnam's infrastructure braces for manufacturing push

Jan. 22, 2018: The tariffs begin

The Trump administration announces tariffs on imported solar cells and certain washing machines. China criticizes the move.

March 2, 2018: Trade wars are 'easy to win'

Containers are stacked on a vessel at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California on July 6, 2018, including some from China Shipping, a conglomerate under the direct administration of China's State Council.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Trump shoots fear into businesses and financial markets by endorsing trade wars.

"When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win," the president writes.

March 8, 2018: Trump imposes metals tariffs

Trump authorizes tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent on steel and aluminium imports, respectively. In approving the duties, he said "a strong steel and aluminium industry are vital to our national security."

April 1, 2018: China takes its first shot

China retaliates against the steel and aluminium duties with tariffs on about $3 billion worth of U.S. goods.

May 3, 2018: Talks fail to end trade war

U.S. and Chinese delegations hold a round of trade talks in Beijing that do not yield a resolution to the disputes. Negotiations in the subsequent months would also not lead to a deal.

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How states are being impacted by the U.S.-China trade war

June 15, 2018: New tariffs escalate tensions

The Trump administration says it will slap a 25% tariff on $50 billion in Chinese goods. Trump cites "China's theft of intellectual property and technology and its other unfair trade practices." Beijing swiftly retaliates, announcing tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. products.

Sept. 17, 2018: Trump ups the stakes

Trump announces 10% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, with a plan to hike the rate to 25% at the start of 2019. He threatens additional tariffs on $267 billion in Chinese products if Beijing retaliates.

Sept. 18, 2018: China fires back

Chinese President Xi Jinping 
Alexander Ryumin | TASS | Reuters

China says it will slap tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. products in response to the latest U.S. duties.

Nov. 1, 2018: Trump and Xi reconnect

A phone call between Trump and Xi restarts talks between the two sides. The U.S. president said the leaders put "a heavy emphasis on trade."

Nov. 26, 2018: Trump threatens wider tariffs

Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that he will likely not delay the increase in the tariff rate on $200 billion in Chinese goods past Jan. 1. He also suggests he could put a 10 percent tariff on Apple iPhones and laptops imported from China.

Dec. 1, 2018: Trump and Xi strike truce

Is the honeymoon already over for Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump?
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Trump and Xi have dinner at the G-20 summit in Argentina. The U.S. agrees to delay a planned increase of the tariff rate on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. They set out to strike a trade deal within 90 days.

Dec. 29, 2018: Trump touts 'big progress'

After a call with Xi, Trump says a trade deal is "moving along very well." It is unclear what progress the sides made, as confusion swirled following the Argentina meeting about what exact steps Beijing and Washington would take to move toward an agreement.

Jan. 7, 2019: Trade talks resume

An American delegation heads to Beijing for three days as trade talks restart.

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China's control of rare earth minerals explained

Feb. 24, 2019: Tariffs delayed again

Trump again delays his plans to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25% from 10%, citing "substantial progress" in the most recent round of trade talks with China. He says the White House and Beijing will plan a summit at his Mar-a-Lago resort to "conclude an agreement" assuming "both sides make additional progress."

April 10, 2019: 'Making progress'

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the U.S. and China are making progress on a trade deal, including resolving a key sticking point on enforcement that had been dragging out the process.

May 5, 2019: Talks fall apart

Workers assemble air-conditioners on the production line of an electrical company's workshop on May 30, 2019 in Huaibei, Anhui Province of China.
Wan Shanchao | VCG | Getty Images

Trump says he will increase tariff rates on Chinese goods as talks move "too slowly" and China attempts to "renegotiate." The White House later accuses Beijing of backing out of major commitments in a developing agreement.

May 10, 2019: Tariff rates jump

Tariff rates on $200 billion in Chinese goods increases to 25% from 10%. China then hiked duties on $60 billion in U.S. goods to as high as 25% on June 1.

June 29, 2019

Trump and Xi agree to continue trade negotiations during their much-anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan.

"We're holding on tariffs, and they're going to buy farm product," Trump said at a press conference after the summit.

On Chinese telco giant Huawei, which Washington says is a security risk to the U.S. and its allies, Trump suggested he will be reversing the decision to ban American companies from selling products to the tech giant. He added that the issue of Huawei will be resolved only at the conclusion of the negotiations.

"We mentioned Huawei. I said we'll have to save that until the very end," Trump said. "One of the things I will allow, however, is — a lot of people are surprised we send and we sell to Huawei a tremendous amount of product that goes into a lot of the various things that they make — and I said that that's OK, that we will keep selling that product."

China's foreign ministry, meanwhile, said in a statement that negotiators from both sides would discuss specific issues, but no details were given. Xi told Trump he hoped the U.S. could treat Chinese companies fairly, the statement added.

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