Trump Announces Tariffs Against China, China Quickly Retaliates

Begun the trade wars have.

Following up on the tariffs against imported steel and aluminum that he announced several weeks ago, President Trump followed up on fulfilling his foolish trade-related economic promises late yesterday with proposed tariffs on goods imported from China:

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Tuesday 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 move, which stems from a White House investigation into China’s use of pressure, intimidation and theft to obtain American technologies, is likely to inflame an already-simmering trade war between the countries. On Monday, China said it would slap tariffs on 128 American products in response to a separate White House plan to tax steel and aluminum from China and other countries.

The products targeted by the White House are part of its plan to go after China’s dominance in cutting-edge technologies like semiconductors, electric vehicles and advanced medical products — industries that China is pursuing dominance in as part of an industrial plan known as “Made in China 2025.”

The Trump administration said that its analysts had identified products that benefit from these policies but refined the list to remove goods that were likely to cause disruptions to the United States economy or consumers.

The list of goods excludes many Chinese-made consumer products available for sale at Target or Walmart, including clothing, shoes and toys. But it will most likely increase costs for American manufacturers that depend on imported parts because it concentrates heavily on machinery and high-tech components. The tariffs will be imposed on a total of $50 billion worth of Chinese products each year.

The designation of targeted products will be followed by a comment period in which American companies can provide feedback to the Trump administration on the product choices. The administration will hold a public hearing on the submissions on May 15 in Washington, and companies will have until May 22 to file final objections.

Business groups, concerned about the effect on companies and workers, swiftly criticized the move.

“Unilaterally imposing $50 billion of new tariffs without a long-term strategy that leads to economic reforms in China will only hurt America’s businesses, workers, and families,” the Business Roundtable, a corporate trade group, said in a statement. “Instead, the administration should work with U.S. allies on an approach that advances meaningful reform in China without imposing significant harm on America’s economy.”

Jay Timmons, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that American manufacturers were concerned about the trade relationship with China, including intellectual property theft, counterfeit goods and unfair subsidies, but also that tariffs were not the best response.

In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in the United States condemned the tariffs. “Such unilateralistic and protectionist action has gravely violated fundamental principles and values of the W.T.O.,” the statement said. “It serves neither China’s interest, nor U.S. interest, even less the interest of the global economy.”

The Chinese would resort to “measures of equal scale and strength against U.S. products in accordance with Chinese law,” the statement said.

While many American companies say they are unfairly treated in China, they have rued the possibility of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, and the economic harm it could cause, and have begun pushing back against the White House’s plans. China remains a crucial and growing market for companies like John Deere and Apple, as well as for soybean farmers and growers of other agricultural products.

Financial markets fell sharply on Monday as China imposed its own retaliatory tariffs on American products but regained most of their lost territory on Tuesday.

President Trump, who has repeatedly promised tough action on China’s trade practices, said Tuesday that he intended to get along with China but that its unfair trade behavior had gone on too long. “It’s not something we can live with,” Mr. Trump said at the White House, adding, “I campaigned on that.”

Trump advisers have criticized past administrations for allowing China to receive the benefits of global trade while continuing to break the international trade rules imposed by organizations like the World Trade Organization — a charge China denies.

But the administration has struggled to persuade its critics that the kind of tough trade measures Mr. Trump favors can alter China’s behavior without tipping the world into a trade war and ultimately harming American workers and consumers. In addition to the tariffs, the White House is preparing to restrict Chinese investment in American technology and innovation, and to start a case against China at the World Trade Organization.

“The administration is rightly focused on restoring equity and fairness in our trade relationship with China,” said Myron Brilliant, an executive vice president and the head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “However, imposing taxes on products used daily by American consumers and job creators is not the way to achieve those ends.”

Within hours after the Trump Administration’s announcement, China announced retaliatory tariffs of its own:

SHANGHAI — China hit back at the United States on Wednesday with proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of American soybeans, cars, chemicals and other goods, in a move likely to spark fears that the countries’ escalating confrontation could become an all-out trade war.

Moving with unusual speed, Chinese officials outlined plans to make it more costly to import 106 categories of American goods into China. The move came just hours after the Trump administration detailed its plan to impose tariffs on a similar value of Chinese-made aircraft parts, cars and car parts, televisions, steel and much more.

The American products come largely from Republican-dominated states, where lawmakers might be expected to have some influence with President Trump and could persuade him to back down from his latest trade demands.

“China has never succumbed to external pressure,” Zhu Guangyao, vice minister of finance, said at a news briefing on Wednesday. He added, “External pressure will only make the Chinese people more focused on economic development.”

Chinese retaliation for the Trump administration’s latest move had been widely expected. Beijing typically responds to overseas tariffs with similar ones of its own, and Chinese officials had promised a proportional response if the Trump administration went ahead this week with the next step toward broad tariffs on Chinese goods.

But in the past, China has tended to wait days and sometimes weeks before striking back.

The tit-for-tat tariffs are part of a wider clash looming over trade between the world’s two biggest economies. Stock markets around the world have taken a hit in recent weeks as Washington and Beijing have escalated their trade dispute.

Chinese officials said on Wednesday that they saw room to negotiate.

“China’s attitude is clear,” Mr. Zhu said. “We don’t want a trade war because a trade war would hurt the interests of both countries.”

Two separate rounds of tariffs are now playing out between the United States and China, one involving metals and the other involving advanced manufacturing technologies.

This announcement from China comes just a few days after Beijing had announced new tariffs on a variety of American products including wine, pork, and stainless steel pipes in retaliation for the aforementioned steel and aluminum tariffs that the Trump Administration had announced at the beginning of March. The swiftness of this announcement, which was atypical for the Chinese, would seem to indicate that the Chinese anticipated that something like what was announced yesterday was coming down the pike. At the very least this indicates that the Chinese are prepared to act swiftly in response to American trade actions, something that they generally haven’t done in the past. It also indicates that, contrary to what Trump and his supporters apparently believe, imposing tariffs against China or any other nation is not going to be easy, and it’s unlikely to come with some degree of pain for many sectors of the American economy.

The swiftness of the Chinese response, as well as its earlier announcement of retaliatory tariffs at the start of the week, offers a fairly quick lesson to counter the argument that the President and others who support his trade agenda have made that trade wars would be easy to win. The reality, of course, is quite different. Rather than resulting in a win for any of the participants, retaliatory trade wars like the one that these dueling announcements seem to portend, don’t have winners, they only have winners. The United States economy, for example, will not benefit from either the steel and aluminum tariffs announced earlier this month or these new tariffs announced against China. In addition to the industries that have been targeted by retaliatory tariffs from China, and from other nations that will be impacted by the steel and aluminum tariffs, these tariffs will have a negative impact on American businesses that rely on imported products that will suddenly become significantly more expensive, the businesses and industries impacted by the retaliatory tariffs, and American consumers will be negatively impacted by the tariffs since it will mean that they will have to pay more for products impacted by them. Additionally, the tariffs themselves will likely have at least some impact on America’s relationship with the nations that will be impacted by them. With respect to these latest rounds of tariffs, that includes both China and South Korea, who are essential players in American policy toward the Kim regime in North Korea. In other words, these tariffs will end up being bad news all around even if they do have some negligible positive benefit for some sectors of the economy that compete against foreign sources of goods in the marketplace.

In a reflection of the truth of these statements, the announcement of these tariffs has been reflected in significant drops in stock prices on Wall Street that will directly impact the retirement accounts of millions of Americans. While at least part of this drop is attributable to the fact that the market itself was due for a correction after having been constantly on the rise for the better part of a year, there’s also no doubt that the President’s trade policies have played a significant role in bringing stock prices down, and wiping out gains that had been made over the past several months in a matter of weeks and days. Yesterday’s announcement from the White House and China’s quick retaliation are already showing up in the futures markets, which indicate yet another rough day ahead for investors. This is just an early example of what we’re likely to see in the economy as a whole if the President continues down this foolish road, which he seems intent on doing and which very few Republicans on Capitol Hill have spoken out against.

Again, none of this should come as a surprise. Trump made his position on international trade well-known throughout the Presidential campaign, and in fact, stretch back to long before he became a candidate for President. As long ago as the 1980s, Trump was among those who were on the bandwagon spreading the fears about trade with Japan that was common in those days, and he quickly shifted to China as a target when that came into vogue with the protectionist crowd that he was a part of. There was little economic merit, or truth, to the claims he made back then, and there’s little economic merit to the policies he’s adopting now. Indeed, as noted above, it’s far more likely that what Trump is doing here will harm the U.S, economy and international relations than that it will strengthen the United States in any significant way.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Economics and Business, International Trade, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. mattbernius says:

    Well, if this continues for any extended period of time, we’ll learn how loyal ag belt Republicans are to the party and to Trump. There are a lot of farmers in red and purple states who stand to take a beating.

    It’s also worth noting that Trump seems to have moved beyond “trade wars are easy to win” in the following tweet from this morning:

    We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.


  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    trump, even when he is correct about something he can be sure to go about trying to fix it in the worst possible manner.

    The pork tariffs are shot across the bow of American agriculture just when farmers are getting ready to plant. Corn? Soybeans? Sorghum? Alfalfa? Farming is rife with uncertainty and the last thing they need is more of it.


  3. MBunge says:

    So, China is allowed to pursue policies that harm U.S. national security, harm the U.S. economy, harm U.S. companies, and harm U.S. workers and there’s nothing anyone can do about it? They can have policies that aggressively protect their national market but no one else can do the same?

    Maybe Trump’s tariffs are a bad idea but he is responding to an actual problem that people like Doug Mataconis have not simply ignored but have actively made worse. It’s like lecturing a drowning man when you not only pushed him into the water but are refusing to throw him the life preserver at your feet.



  4. Grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: it’s called “making sure that what you do isn’t making things worse”

    Something Trump never worries about. And you, poor fool, have fallen for it.


  5. gVOR08 says:

    China hit back at the United States on Wednesday with proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of American soybeans, cars, chemicals and other goods, in a move likely to spark fears that the countries’ escalating confrontation could become an all-out trade war.



  6. MarkedMan says:

    Here is the key statement:

    Unilaterally imposing $50 billion of new tariffs without a long-term strategy that leads to economic reforms in China

    As I’ve said before, Trump is the modern Republican Party. And that party doesn’t have anyone left that is capable of thinking these things through. Should we be tough with China? Of course. Can the Republicans create and execute a plan that would succeed? The very idea is laughable. 25 years ago if a US president tried such a running-while-pulling-on-your-pants lurch around congress, especially with not a single person in the Cabinet that understands trade, they would have shut him down months ago. Democrats and Republicans from, say, Kansas had tacit agreements on protecting their states interest regardless of who was in power. Now Kansas Republicans are the type of partisan morons who ingest the bourbon induced slogans of billionaire quasi-libertarian hobbyists and sh*t out, well, the self induced economic basket case that is Kansas.

    The semi-sentiment Tea Party mouth breathers chant the slogans, “Of course the President should be allowed the cabinet of their choice” and mindlessly approve whatever piece of flotsam or jetsam washes up in front of their committee. But 25 years ago you can bet that Dems and Repubs from states involved in finance, trade, manufacturing and agriculture would have worked together behind the scenes to insure Trump’s Trash never made it to a vote.


  7. Franklin says:

    I don’t have much to add. I just wish if we were going to put a tariff on something, it would be on something that we’d be better off without. Plastic. Sugar. Lead-encrusted toys. Shrimp injected with chemical gels.

    Why put a tariff on steel and aluminum? The environmental problems mostly come from mining/refining/manufacturing those products, not building with them. Let China handle the pollution, and let us build cool stuff.


  8. Dave Schuler says:

    We’ll know it’s serious when Walmart starts lining up second sourcing.


  9. KM says:

    So we save manufacturing jobs at the expense of farming jobs? Manufacturing jobs that will, in reality, be done by robots and not rural Americans who bought into the whole “let’s bring back 50’s prosperity” crap? Those glorious $25 an hour, anybody can do them without graduating from high school jobs?

    Seriously, when are people going to accept those are gone for good and realize we can’t recreate the economy of the past? Frankly, a good chunk of humanity has been replaced – all they had to offer was the strength of their hands and now the machines can do it better. They’re never going to get a cushy job that pays them fantastic wages ever again if all they can do is something a robot can do. They’re either going to need to adapt to the times or learn to accept what jobs may come… and now Trump’s taking out one of the options they have left.

    Meanwhile, farmers are struggling as it is and Trump’s actions have just cost them real money. They need to be able to sell their wares at a decent price anywhere they can and now one of the biggest markets in the world is effectively shutting them out. When the family farm goes under because of these tariffs, you think they’re gonna care about all that nonsense you spouted? THEY are Made in America and yet they’re the first to suffer due to your protectionist crap for a field that’s been dying since before many of them were born!


  10. Timothy Watson says:

    Some group called “Farmers for Free Trade” is running ads on WTOP (a Washington, D.C. news station) that sound like a battered woman begging her husband to stop hitting her. ‘We love Trump but those tariffs will kill us!’


  11. michael reynolds says:

    Hey, genius. The way you handle these things has a name: diplomacy. What happened to the Great Deal Maker, Bung? This was all going to be easy because the orange god is the master of the art of the deal, right?

    Incidentally, do us a favor and list, oh, the three best deals Trump has made. No, not the Supreme Court seat, McConnell stole that. No, not the tax cuts for billionaires, any Republican POTUS would have signed that. But I’m sure you’ll have a nice long list of the really excellent deals Trump has negotiated. You’ll probably have a hard time paring the list down to just three, right?

    Here, I’ll get you started:



  12. Kathy says:

    Damn, if only america could partner with the other large Asian economies and, say, Canada, in a trade alliance that could pressure China effectively.

    Oh, wait.


  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    Maybe Trump’s tariffs are a bad idea but he is responding to an actual problem

    Actually…Dennison’s tariffs are a terrible idea in reaction to a grossly exaggerated problem.
    Of course China is looking out for its own interests, and it does not have a market economy; China operates with restrictions and controls. But those artificial restraints on trade hold back their economy. What Dennison and his dupes, like you, don’t get is that our businesses are not victims in the process. No one forces them into trading and investment relationships with the Chinese. When there is no gain, there is no trade.
    The only people who think this is a good idea is Dennison and the people he has conned.
    Like you, Bunge.
    But don’t answer…just run away…your typical MO.


  14. grumpy realist says:

    Plus, China still has a few arrows left in their quiver:
    1) China is the world’s source for a heck of a lot of heavy metals necessary for semiconductor doping/magnets/catalysts.
    2) Who ends up buying a large chunk of US treasuries?

    In other words, if push came to shove, China could really whack the US economy without setting off a single missile.


  15. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Everyday it becomes more apparent that President Dennison really has no idea how anything works.
    These tariffs are one example.
    His rants about Amazon and the Post Office are another.
    The examples are myriad.
    It’s just terrifying that the guy in charge of making policy has zero idea about what he is talking about. I mean…this is a trade war; a bunch of people will lose their jobs and everyone’s 401K will drop in value.
    But what happens when Dennison’s inability to grasp anything more complex than his spray-on tan leads to an honest to goodness shooting war?
    I assume Bunge will be first in line to sign up for active duty???


  16. MikeSJ says:

    Perhaps some good will come of this in the end; these people – the farm belt Republicans – are one of the mainstays of the Republican party. If they have their economy destroyed by Trump and his idiocy there is a chance (who knows how large) that the fever of stupidity and resentment that they wallow in might break.

    The Democrats will have to have an intelligent well thought out ad campaign to take advantage of this (I know, but miracles can happen) but there is a real chance these fools can sober up and stop shooting themselves in the foot.

    If not? Well do what we do when we pass a horrific car accident; wince and stare thinking thank God that isn’t me. (OK, in this case I’ll admit I’ll chuckle a little)


  17. MarkedMan says:

    A side note: Trump is a sole-proprietor who made his money from being a reality TV star and selling his name to actual developers who find suckers (or people with dirty money problems) who are willing to pay a premium for Trump’s ultra-skeezy brand. (The Trump brand is to the top 1% what the leopard print unitard is to middle aged dowagers after their first round of plastic surgery.) There is also a contract hotel management business that his kids seem to run, and they appear at least smart enough to hire moderately competent managers to tell them what to do, keeping The Donald well away. Every real business Trump actually got involved with went bankrupt, was litigated out of existence, or simply faded away. This is all evidence that Trump has no positive experience in actual business. He is at best PT Barnum without the actual business skills, just the carnival barker talent.

    Out of the many wrong headed ideas this shambles of a professional life has imbued him with, the one he seems to have “learned” best is that if someone wins, someone else loses. And there is no greater satisfaction in life than bragging that you made your business opponent look like a b*tch. Both of these things are death to a trade deal. No country ever has any incentive to sign a trade deal that benefits you and hurts them. The whole purpose of a trade deal is to either unite against another competitor or to find areas where your interests aren’t diametrically opposed. If you can’t come to a mutually beneficial pact, there’s no reason to sign. In fact, aside from economic considerations, the political ones are ten times more important to the hand holding the signing pen. Which means that the second part of Trump’s business “acumen” makes it even less likely he would be able to negotiate a good deal. Even if it is neutral, who would want to sign on the dotted line only to have Mr. Orange Hair Product loudly bragging ten minutes later that he had bent you over and pumped you?


  18. MarkedMan says:


    If they have their economy destroyed by Trump and his idiocy there is a chance (who knows how large) that the fever of stupidity and resentment that they wallow in might break.

    Over my lifetime I have heard this idea that “things will get so bad they will finally see the error of their ways” many, many times. And it has never been born out. My god, Kansans re-elected Brownback. Think about that! Mississippi and Alabama have vied for 50th place in the education game for generation after generation, yet politicians still keep winning elections by trumpeting the same bogus theories year after year after year. And look at Marion Barry, who returned form the political dead time after time. They are literally erecting a statue to him right now! Now that he’s dead, who have his constituents put in his place? A guy who feels it necessary to tweet that the Rothschilds have weather machines they are using to bring ruin upon black people.

    No, schadenfreude might bring relief for a few moments but if there is to be real change the good guys have to do the work to win elections and craft air tight policies.


  19. teve tory says:

    Larry Kudlow swings into action with some stupid babbling:

    . There’s no trade war here. What you’ve got is the early stages of a process which will include tariffs, comments on the tariffs, then ultimate decisions and negotiations. There’s already backchannel talks going on. So look, I understand the stock market’s anxiety. I get that. But on the other hand, don’t over react. We’ll see how this works out.

    My view Stu, look, you know I’m a growth guy, I’m a Reagan supply side growth guy. I think that at the end of this whole process, that at the end of the rainbow, there’s a pot of gold. And if you open up that pot, you will see better economic growth, more trading going on, improved wages for both sides.

    Anytime you lower barriers, anytime you lower barriers, and that’s the key, the president will say this, lower barriers is the key, don’t raise the barriers. Anytime you do that, it’s good for growth. It’s good for American growth and American workers, it’s good for China’s growth, it’s good for the rest of the world’s growth.”



  20. MarkedMan says:

    @teve tory:

    Anytime you lower barriers, anytime you lower barriers, and that’s the key, the president will say this, lower barriers is the key, don’t raise the barriers.

    What does this he even mean by this? The president will say lowering barriers is the key? The President just unilaterally raised the barriers! This guy is to be the top economic advisor in the Trump administration? He sounds like he’s covering his ass for his inevitably return to shouty TV.


  21. grumpy realist says:

    @teve tory: Anyone who believes in supply-side economics has already shown he has mush for brains.


  22. MikeSJ says:


    No, schadenfreude might bring relief for a few moments but if there is to be real change the good guys have to do the work to win elections and craft air tight policies.

    I agree intellectually with what you are stating but it seems no good policy or white paper or program will ever win out over “Libtards” or “Messicans” or birtherism or whatever crap du jour Fox news is pushing.

    Not until the farmers are hurting, not until they themselves are in pain does it seem that they will be receptive to turning off Fox News and actually thinking about what will benefit them. It goes with out saying (but I’ll say it anyway) they don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves. Actually harming other people or communities at best means zero to them, and for many it’s a positive.

    Maybe, just maybe, once they see their communities crumble due to Trumps policies will the Democrats have a fighting chance.


  23. grumpy realist says:

    Great comment from over at Balloon Juice:

    Given the Trump administration’s general level of competence, I fear that it will try to compensate for the lost China market for American pork by putting some poor sap in charge of increasing pork exports to the Middle East. “The President looked at the numbers, and it’s an untapped market!”


  24. teve tory says:

    @grumpy realist: yep.


  25. Kylopod says:

    Trump has fallen victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “Never get involved in a trade war with China,” but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go up against the world economy when stocks are on the line!”


  26. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    well played, sir…


  27. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Maybe Trump’s tariffs are a bad idea but he is responding to an actual problem that people like Doug Mataconis have not simply ignored but have actively made worse. ”

    So you’re saying that a bad idea that makes matters worse is better than doing nothing? Are you in favor of putting gasoline on fires because that will show them?


  28. Kathy says:

    If you’d watched “The Shows” you’d know the one proven method for reducing illegal immigration is to tank the US economy, as Bush the younger attempted to do.

    But he didn’t go far enough. Trump is engaging in his trademark tenth-dimensional Candy Land. He will sink the US into a depression so bad, it will make the Great Depression look like The Good Old Days. That will end illegal immigration once and for all, and create jobs, lower air fares, make julienne fries, and show Crooked Hillary who’s boss.


  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: Somewhat like what the Brits are doing with Brexit. Trash the U.K. economy, get a reputation as a xenophobic, belligerent country who doesn’t want to play with anyone, and yeah, you’ll probably not have that many immigrants showing up on your doorstep.

    (You also won’t have sufficient vets, doctors, or nurses, but I guess that’s the breaks.)


  30. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Splendid Isolation works only when you’re not really isolated because you have a world-spanning empire.


  31. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Interesting editorial from the Korea Times, Friday 3o March, page 19. I don’t have a hot link because I read the print edition, but someone can probably figure out how to connect on line. The title of the article is Dark Matter of trade.

    The money paragraph [emphasis added]:

    But the amount the US pays for it’s supposed $9.1 trillion in debt is nothing. Instead, it made $205 billion in the year to September 2017, a difference of $527 billion. If that were the consequence of owning some kind of asset that yields 4% a year, it means that instead of owing$9.1 trillion, the US accumulated an asset worth $5.2 trillion. The difference is a whopping $14.3 Trillion.

    The crux of the argument is that we don’t actually count everything that should be identified as “trade,” at least partially because it doesn’t all look like trade (one thing, for example, that the article cites is royalties paid by foreign operators for running Uber ride sharing services).

    That Trump may not realize that he doesn’t know what he is talking about is no surprise here. When does Trump ever know what he is talking about? The long term effect of all the blather and fear among the Bunges, JBKs, Guarnaris, and all the other cast of idiots who represent the 80% of the GOP and 40 or so percent of the population at large has potentially devastating consequences, but no one who can take action cares. THAT is the problem.


  32. Kathy says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    I think I found it, but not at Korea Times:

    Dark Matter of Trade


  33. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Yeah, that’s the article. It never occurred to me to consider going by it’s publisher, Project Syndicate, but I’m not very adept at this interwebs stuff.


  34. Kathy says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    I tried to search for Korea Times first. I found the publication, but not the piece. So I searched for the title and found it there.