The US and China slapped a bunch of tariffs on each other again, and their first talks in months went nowhere

  • President Donald Trump’s trade war kicked up another notch Thursday with tariffs imposed on another $US16 billion worth of Chinese goods.
  • The new tariffs came even as the US and China were negotiating in Washington – their first talks since June.
  • But according to a senior administration official, the Americans aren’t seeing much progress in the talks.

The trade war between the US and China took another step forward Thursday, and a resolution still seems far away.

At midnight, the US imposed 25% tariffs on $US16 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into the US – and China responded in kind. That brings the total amount of goods flowing between the countries subject to tariffs up to $US106 billion, or roughly 17% of all US-China trade.

At the same time, a senior Trump administration official talked down the chances for substantial progress in the latest round of US-China trade talks.

“In order for us to get a positive result out of these engagements, it’s really critical that they address the fundamental concerns that we have raised,” the administration official said on a call with reporters. “We haven’t seen that yet, but we are going to continue to encourage them to address problems that we have raised.”

The negotiations between the two countries are the first formal talks since June, when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross went to Beijing.

The Trump administration is hoping to force China to make major adjustments to its economic policies, including lowering existing tariffs and addressing US claims of rampant intellectual-property theft by Chinese firms. In addition, Trump wants to slash the US’s large trade deficit with China.

Given the ambitious goals, the senior administration official downplayed any possibility of a formal announcement coming out of the talks, which are scheduled to wrap up Thursday.

“We hope that they will take seriously the concerns raised and that can put us on a better posture, both with respect to the issues that have been raised but also with the broader trade relationship,” the official said.

Trade experts weren’t putting too much stock in the meeting, but the lack of progress cements expectations that the trade war’s end is nowhere in sight.

The Office of the US Trade Representative is moving forward with another set of tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and reports indicate Trump wants to dig in and extract more concessions from China.

The longer the fight continues, the more likely that the US economy and businesses get hurt. American firms have reported that tariffs have caused price increases, forcing them to make hard choices such as delaying expansion plans or laying off workers.