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Trump Raises Tariffs on $200B in Chinese Goods

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Port of Long Beach, one of the biggest hubs for Chinese imports entering the U.S. (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 05-10-2019 09:36:55

In the early hours of Friday morning, the Trump administration raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, the latest shot in an escalating transpacific trade war.

"Tariffs will make our Country MUCH STRONGER, not weaker. Just sit back and watch! In the meantime, China should not renegotiate deals with the U.S. at the last minute," Trump said in a Twitter statement Friday morning. "Tariffs will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our Country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind. Also, much easier & quicker to do."

Last Sunday, Trump accused China of backtracking on its previous agreements in trade talks, and he threatened to raise existing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports by an additional 15 percentage points by the end of the week. Those tariffs took effect early Friday, and this week's talks have now ended without an agreement. 

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said this week that Chinese negotiators had sought to materially alter the terms of a written agreement as the talks neared completion. "Over the course of the last week or so we have seen an erosion in commitments by China. That in our view is unacceptable," Lighthizer said. "Come Friday there will be [more] tariffs in place." 

Now that talks have ended and tariffs on Chinese goods have increased, China's ministry of commerce says that it will have to look at retaliatory measures. In a brief statement Friday, the ministry said that "China deeply regrets that it will have to take necessary countermeasures."

The continuation of trade tensions will mean that Chinese restrictions on American agricultural exports will continue. America's soybean farmers have been hard hit this season - first by Chinese retaliatory tariffs, then by flooding across the Midwest, which has affected farms by cutting off rail and barge connections to market. Last week, barge traffic on the Mississippi was closed at St. Louis due to high water levels and strong currents; several key rail services came to a halt in March due to floodwaters' effects on tracks. 

According to advocacy group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, the most recent statistics show that American exports of products targeted for Chinese trade retaliation (including agricultural goods) are down by more than a third. “We’re paying that tariff. I want there to be no mistake that the consumer is paying for these tariffs. I wish China was paying them. I certainly would feel better about it that way,” said Brent Bible, a soybean farmer in Lafayette, Indiana, speaking in an interview arranged by the group.

On Friday, President Trump said that the administration would do more to help farmers affected by the trade war - including a program to purchase American agricultural goods and donate them to countries in need. "Our Farmers will do better, faster, and starving nations can now be helped," Trump said. 

The American Association of Port Authorities has opposed the administration's previous tariff measures, and on Friday it voiced concern at the tariff hike. “AAPA is very concerned about the President’s decision to increase tariffs on Chinese goods and the expected retaliatory actions by the Chinese government,” said Susan Monteverde, AAPA’s vice president of government relations. “We urge the President to put a pause on this action and continue negotiations. Tariffs harm all Americans as the increased cost of goods imported and exported are felt throughout our nation . . . AAPA is working to help the Administration and federal policymakers recognize that increasing trade tariffs on Chinese exports will do far more harm than good.”