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China Announces New Retaliatory Tariffs


This back and forth over tariffs between the U.S. and China is continuing. The White House has made public the list of Chinese exports that it plans to hit with steep tariffs. And then just this morning, Beijing announced similar plans to put tariffs on more than 100 types of U.S. products. NPR's Rob Schmitz is in Shanghai. Hey, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

N. KING: So what products are the Chinese targeting this morning?

SCHMITZ: Well, first, I think I should clarify some things because there's been a lot of tariff talk this week.

N. KING: Yeah, there sure has.

SCHMITZ: And (laughter) so for the sake of clarification, these are the second set of tariffs from China this week. The first set were imposed by Beijing on Monday, and they targeted about $3 billion worth of U.S. products. Now, this set of Chinese tariffs announced today will be much bigger if they're imposed. So the Chinese are going after 106 U.S. products worth $50 billion. And they'll include soybeans, sorghum products, beef, cars, chemicals, corn products and aircraft. Now, there are two products among these that are big-ticket U.S. exports to China - soybeans and aircraft.

Soybeans - I think they'll be hit hard should these tariffs go through. Aircraft, on the other hand - not so sure. Boeing makes different classes of aircraft that it exports to China. And this particular tariff will target aircraft between 15,000 and 45,000 kilograms in weight. Some analysts say this will include some of Boeing's smaller commercial aircraft, like the single-aisle 737. But other larger Boeing models will reportedly not be impacted by this. Regardless, Boeing shares in pre-market trading in the U.S. sank more than 3 percent on this news. And predictably, soybean futures have pretty much tanked.

N. KING: I mean, Rob, this sounds pretty serious. Is it?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, it sounds serious, but it's important to note here that China's government has not specified when these tariffs will be imposed. Given that these tariffs were announced the day after the Trump administration announced it was planning 25 percent tariffs on more than 1,000 Chinese products, it's pretty clear today's action is China retaliating for that. So while the markets will probably not react favorably to any of this news, it's important to note here that neither the Chinese tariffs nor the Trump tariffs - both on products worth $50 billion each - neither of these sets of tariffs have been imposed yet. China's planned tariffs seem to be a pre-emptive strike that Beijing will unleash if the Trump administration goes ahead with its tariffs on Chinese products.

N. KING: I mean, I know we've thrown around the phrase a lot lately, but it does seem like we are possibly on the verge of a trade war, but that it hangs on President Trump's tariffs. Now, is there any chance that both sides can just come to the table and prevent an all-out trade war?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, there is. And both sides have been talking to each other. China's vice premier, Liu He, has spoken with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. But so far, not much progress has been made. We still have at least 30 days of a comment period on the proposed Trump administration tariffs on Chinese products before the president would take action. So we're looking at a month between now and early May when the world's two largest economies have an opportunity to sit down and negotiate a peaceful solution to all of this. Otherwise, it looks like - from today's announcement in Beijing - that China is prepared to retaliate against tens of billions of dollars' worth of U.S. products if the Trump administration goes ahead with its tariffs.

N. KING: Wow. NPR's Rob Schmitz in Shanghai. Thanks, Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.
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