The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today rolled out a list of $50 billion worth of Chinese-made goods that could be hit by import tariffs, marking the latest volley in what some fear could turn into a trade war.
The items range from components for spacecraft and aircraft, to robots and other industrial tools, to pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to television sets, dishwashers and even sewing machine needles.
The 45-page, 1,300-item list was developed as a response to what the Trump administration says are China’s efforts to take unfair advantage of technologies and intellectual property developed in the U.S. Listed items could be subject to an added import duty of 25 percent.
The proposed tariffs won’t take effect until they undergo more than a month of public comment and review.
Trade officials said federal agencies checked the list to remove targets that could backfire on the U.S. economy. Nevertheless, the Retail Industry Leaders Association said it’s concerned about the potential impact, particularly when it comes to tariffs aimed at appliances, TVs and other consumer products.
“Tariffs on everyday consumer products will hit American wallets, not Chinese technology violators, and the presumption that any of these targeted products could be reasonably sourced elsewhere ignores the complexity of modern global value chains,” Hun Quach, RILA’s vice president of international trade, said in a statement.
The National Retail Federation’s president and CEO, Matthew Shay, voiced similar worries.
“While we are pleased that many everyday products such as clothing and shoes are not on the list, we remain concerned that other goods such as consumer electronics and home appliances are targets,” he said in a statement. “And we believe that tariffs on certain machinery will make American-made products more expensive.”
He urged the administration “to work with our trading partners to hold China accountable, advance targeted solutions and recognize the unintended consequences of protectionist trade policies.”
One of those consequences could be further escalation of the current U.S.-China trade dispute, which was touched off last month by the White House’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
China struck back over the weekend, saying it would impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on $3 billion worth of food imports from the U.S.
Today Beijing’s U.S. Embassy issued a statement strongly condemning Washington’s latest volley. It said the Chinese government would take up the matter with the World Trade Organization, and hinted at further retaliatory action.
“As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate,” the embassy said. “The Chinese side will resort to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism and take corresponding measures of equal scale and strength against U.S. products in accordance with Chinese law.”
The fact that today’s tariff list includes aerospace-related goods raises the possibility that Chinese retaliation could target the U.S. aerospace sector. That would be bad news for Boeing, which counts Chinese carriers among its biggest customers. But some analysts say China needs Boeing’s airplanes too much to deal the company a serious blow.