China blasts Trump and escalates trade battle after he makes abrupt reversal on tariffs

Getty Images / Thomas Peter-Pool

  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that tariffs on $US50 billion worth of Chinese goods would go forward despite a broad trade agreement.
  • In response, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it was “surprised” by the move but at the same time “somewhat expected” it.
  • China also promised to “defend the core interests of the people and the nations” in response to Trump’s crackdown.

The Chinese government is urging President Donald Trump to return to the negotiating table after the White House announced that the US would move forward with a crackdown on trade with China.

The White House said the US “will impose a 25 per cent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China containing industrially significant technology, including those related to ‘Made in China 2025’.”

“Made in China 2025”, is a strategic plan initiated by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2015 to support the development of strategic, high-tech fields.

The Trump administration said Tuesday the tariffs would be finalised by June 15 despite a trade agreement reached between the two countries earlier this month.

In addition to the tariffs, and to “protect our national security”, the US “will implement specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology”.

In a statement Tuesday, a representative for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce took a subtle dig at Trump’s constant back-and-forth on trade issues.

“We are surprised by the strategic statement released by the White House, but, at the same time, it is somewhat expected,” the statement said. “It is obviously against the consensus reached by the US and China in Washington recently.”

The possibility of inflamed trade tensions, coming just over a week after a trade war with China seemed unlikely, helped contribute to a tumble in US markets. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 400 points, or 1.6%, as of 12:30 p.m. ET.

In the statement, China also promised to defend its domestic economy in the event that the Trump administration continues the trade attacks.

“No matter what the actions that the US plans to take, China has the confidence, the capability, and the experience to defend the core interests of the people and the nation,” the statement said.

The back-and-forth comes just days before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to visit Beijing to continue talks with Chinese officials. The status of the agreement is unclear now that US tariffs look set to go forward.

But even with the overall tough tone of the statement, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce representative ended on a conciliatory note.

“China urges the United States of meet us halfway with the spirit of our joint statement,” the representative said.

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