President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that 10 percent tariffs across $200 billion worth of goods from China in yearly import value will increase to 25 percent on Friday.
He also mentioned that $325 billion worth of untaxed goods from China will “shortly” be tariffed at 25 percent, though it’s unclear why Trump cited that figure.
According to Commerce Department statistics, the U.S. imported about $540 billion in goods from China in 2018 and is collecting tariffs across $250 billion worth of imports, meaning only $290 billion worth of imports — not the $325 billion figure Trump cited — are not subject to tariffs.
The Trump administration didn’t respond to an email requesting clarification.
“The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate,” Trump said. “No!”
It’s difficult to know whether the announcement was motivated by fundamental disagreements between the U.S. and China on outstanding areas of the negotiation or by a desire by Trump to boost U.S. leverage as Washington and Beijing look to enter a final phase of trade talks, U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) Senior Vice President Erin Ennis told American Shipper.
“It could be either one; frankly, it probably could be both,” she said.
Ennis said she didn’t read Trump’s tweet as an indication that the U.S. and China are going further apart.
The last round of trade talks concluded last week, after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer led a U.S. delegation to China.
Though it’s unclear whether Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will make the trip, Chinese negotiators are scheduled to visit Washington for more talks this week, even as Trump’s announcement could have added a layer of tension to talks.
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Chinese state-run Global Times, on Monday tweeted that he “got … information” that the Chinese delegation “may still go to the U.S.,” which the editor said should be “seen as goodwill” from Beijing.
The U.S. last year imposed tariffs on China in connection with a Section 301 investigation that identified China as engaging in a wide range of unfair commercial practices, including forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft and cyber intrusions.
USCBC has heard from both the U.S. and Chinese governments that enforcement has remained the most consistent outstanding issue of talks, and the group had heard that an action plan to resolve existing tariffs also hadn’t been agreed upon yet, Ennis said.
“There may still have been other outstanding issues” on the table in addition to enforcement and tariffs, such as IP rights, market access and technology transfer issues, she said.
Several trade associations, including the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation and Tariffs Hurt the Heartland expressed concern about the announced tariff increase.
“For 10 months, Americans have been paying the full cost of the trade war, not China,” Tariffs Hurt the Heartland said in a statement. “To be clear, tariffs are taxes that Americans pay, and this sudden increase with little notice will only punish U.S. farmers, businesses and consumers.”
“This is great news for America’s domestic manufacturers,” CPA Chairman Dan DiMicco said in a statement. “President Trump continues to confront China’s aggressive trade strategies and its heavily subsidized production of state-sponsored companies. America’s manufacturers and their workers can breathe a sigh of relief that the president isn’t being coerced by the import lobby into abandoning the very leverage that brought Beijing to the negotiating table.”