The Chinese government blasted President Donald Trump’s announcement on March 22, 2018, that the US will impose new tariffs on imports from China and said they would introduce their own trade barriers in response.
Trump’s tariffs, which act as a tax on imports, will apply to goods worth about $50 billion annually and hit industries from aerospace to pharmaceuticals. Additionally, the crackdown will limit certain types of Chinese investment into the US.
In response, China is reportedly set to impose new a tariffs ranging from 15% to 25% on 128 different US goods, including fresh fruit, wine, modified ethanol, steel pipe, and more.
According to a statement from the government, the tariffs would apply to about $3 billion of goods annually.
Additionally, the government argued that the Trump administration’s use of national security as the basis for tariffs on steel and aluminum was a smokescreen and the restrictions were economic-based. Thus, under World Trade Organization rules China’s retaliation is legal.
The government also criticized the use of the national security rationale and said it destabilizes international order.
“The United States’ practice of restricting the import of products based on ‘national security’ has severely damaged the multilateral trade system represented by the WTO and seriously interfered with the normal international trade order,” the statement said.
The move significantly raises the possibility of increased trade tensions between the US and China. During the press conference to announce the new tariffs on March 22, 2018, Trump warned that the move was “the first of many.”
In a statement on March 22, 2018, the Chinese Embassy in the US also warned that the country is not afraid of a trade war.
“China does not want a trade war with anyone,” the Chinese embassy in Washington DC said. “But China is not afraid of and will not recoil from a trade war. China is confident and capable of facing any challenge. If a trade war were initiated by the U.S., China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures.”
Trump justified the move as a response to the theft of US companies’ intellectual property by the Chinese government. The report announcing the tariffs cited instances of US companies being forced to move patents to China or partner with a Chinese firm in order to do business in the country.
Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also took a tough stance on a possibility of a trade war.
“We want no trade war with anyone, but if our hands are forced, we will not quail nor recoil from it. Therefore, if the day did come when the U.S. took measures to hurt our interests, we will definitely take firm and necessary countermeasures to safeguard our legitimate interests.”
Trump told reporters during the announcement of the tariffs that China and other countries had taken advantage of the US for too long and the president’s goal was to reduce the $375 billion trade deficit with the country.
Zhang Xiangchen, China’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, told Reuters on March 22, 2018, that China is preparing action against the US in response to the new tariffs and other tariffs Trump recently put in place.
“My colleagues in the capital have been preparing those options and this response,” he said. “We still cherish the multilateral trading system very much, although there’s a flavor of trade war in the air.”