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Richard Quest: The US-China trade war has begun


This week's round two - over Chinese appropriation of United States intellectual property - marks an exponential escalation, with each side first threatening tariffs on $50 billion of the other's exports.

Amid our escalating trade war with China, President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, tried to assure investors that, despite roiling stock markets, a "pot of gold" lies at the end of the dispute.

"If the USA side disregards opposition from China and the worldwide community and insists on carrying out unilateralism and trade protectionism, the Chinese side will follow through, at any costs, till the end", the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement yesterday. It will be a double-whammy for the auto industry, which already faces higher prices on steel and aluminum because of Trump's tariffs on imported steel. China is poised to slap tariffs on $12 billion of USA soybean exports, representing more than half of total USA exports of the crop. That move was a direct reaction to the tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods that the White House detailed on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, China unveiled a list of 106 U.S. goods including soybeans, whiskey, frozen beef and aircraft targeted for tariffs, just hours after the Trump administration proposed duties on some 1300 Chinese industrial, technology, transport and medical products. "China, the United States and the world economy", former U.S. Treasury Department official Christine McDaniel, now with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, told an Australian news agency.

For that reason, our tri-state governors and congressional delegations (positions filled, by the way, with men and women of the same political stripe as Trump) should lead the way in urging the administration to begin walking the US back from the brink of what promises to be a catastrophe for the Heartland. The Dow was down 700 points late in the day.

Chinese state media yesterday denounced Mr Trump's latest threat, with nationalistic tabloid Global Times saying it reflected "the deep arrogance of some American elites in their attitude towards China".

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Corporate executives, who only weeks ago thought they had successfully contained Trump's impulses on immigration and trade, are now unsure what is coming next or what it will do to the economy. "But I would say they have been unsatisfactory, so we will see".

On Thursday, Mr Trump said he had ordered officials to look at a new round of tariffs "in light of China's unfair retaliation" against earlier U.S. trade actions. United States carmakers and aircraft companies are the most affected sectors as both of which are at the center of China's tariff plans.

The US measures mainly goods that allegedly benefitted from China's theft of US intellectual property.

Instead, he said the Trump administration was still willing to negotiate with China, while sending a direct message it would defend USA interests. The Chinese appeal came after it filed two complaints at the World Trade Organisation claiming the USA has violated global trading rules, a charge the White House dismissed. Those tariffs have yet to go into effect.

Kudlow, who has repeatedly sought to soothe markets with mention of possible talks, told Bloomberg Television there were always ongoing bilateral discussions on trade but that negotiations on tariffs had not begun.

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