Timeline of U.S. China Trade War

Posted on May 2, 2018 by


The U.S.-China trade war has been ongoing since January 2017. It first started with threats on imposing tariffs but did not take effect until January 2018.

“An annual survey of business conditions by the American Chamber of Commerce, or AmCham, in China found that 4 out of 5 companies feel less welcome in China as before. As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office in Washington, [business ties between the United States and China] have become a major source of friction,” the Washington Post said in September 2017.

On 15 March 2017, China’s premier Li Keqiang said at a news conference that China did not want a trade war to break out between them and the United States because it would not only make their trade difficult but would harm both countries. The Chinese hoped that no matter what happened, their relationship with the U.S. would continue to positively move forward, according to the Washington Post.

In April 2017, President Trump launched investigations on foreign steel imports to figure out whether or not they were a threat to national security.

“Executives from 25 steel companies and industry groups wrote a letter to Trump, saying ‘the need for action is urgent,’ on Wednesday demanding the president act. They say excess steel and rising imports are hurting the American steel industry,” CnnMoney said.

In August 2017, Trump signed a letter that ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine if an investigation was necessary because theft of American intellectual property was suspected, and later “the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property named China as the main offender, estimating it costs the U.S. economy up to $600 billion a year,” CNNMoney said.

Then things were quiet on both sides until 22 January 2018, when Trump foisted a 30% tariff on solar panels and a 20% tariff on washing machines. Then the U.S. Commerce proposed a 24%tariff on steel imports and 7.7% on aluminum on 16 February 2018, according to The New York Times.

European Union officials had issued a threat to place tariffs on American goods if the U.S. pressed any more tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The following day, the U.S. raised the steel import tariff to 25% and aluminum tariff to 10%, but “Mexico and Canada are granted initial exemptions,” the New York Times said in March 2017.

Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House. We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military,” Trump said in a Tweet the same day.

Two weeks later, 22 March 2018, Trump announced a plan to impose a tariff of $50 billion dollars on goods from China. China responded with pressing a $3 billion tariff on American goods the same day, and the U.S. granted short-term exemptions to the European Union, South Korea, and other nations on steel and aluminum tariffs, The New York Times said.

2 April 2018, China proposed 25% tariffs on American wine, pipes, pork, and 128 other products, according to The New York Times.

“We hope that the United States will rescind its measures that violate World Trade Organization rules as quickly as possible. China and the United States are the world’s two biggest economies, and cooperation is the only correct choice. Both sides should use dialogue and consultation to resolve their mutual concerns,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said.

According to The New York Times on 3 April 2018, the Trump administration said “that it will place a 25 percent tariff on Chinese products like flat-screen televisions, medical devices, aircraft parts and batteries, outlining more than 1,300 imported goods that will soon face levies as part of a sweeping trade measure aimed at penalizing China for its trade practices.”

The following day, China counteracted by imposing a $50 billion tariff on more American products.

On 5 April 2018, Trump is considered adding another $100 billion tariff, according to a statement to CNNMoney: “In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the [United States Trade Representative] to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate.”

Whether or not China will respond with a counter-tariff after this is unknown at this time.

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