BEIJING – The United States has levied tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, a long-threatened move that may prompt Beijing to retaliate against American products and to plunge the two countries into a costly and increasingly unpredictable trade war.
U.S. customs officers started imposing duties on $34 billion in Chinese goods at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Moments after the deadline, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce issued a statement calling the U.S. move “typical trade bullying.”
“In order to defend the core interests of the country and the interests of the people, we are forced to retaliate.”
The ministry did not specify what measures to expect, but Chinese officials have previously said they will respond with equivalent action against a range of U.S. goods, including pork, poultry, soybeans and corn, and President Trump last month vowed to hit an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods if Beijing did so.
The moves will mark a historic break with nearly a quarter-century of growing integration between the U.S. and Chinese economies. The U.S. tariffs – intended to spare consumers by aiming at industrial products – are designed to force China to drop numerous trade practices that the president says discriminate against U.S. companies.
After months of rhetorical exchanges between Washington and Beijing, the imposition of the new import taxes makes real a conflict that has rattled markets, scrambled corporate supply networks and chilled business investment.
“I don’t think this is going to get resolved easily and I think these tariffs are going to hurt the U.S. economy,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents multinationals such as Coca-Cola, Ford and Microsoft.
The exchange of tariffs comes as trade-related cracks are beginning to appear in an otherwise robust U.S. economy, according to minutes of the Federal Reserve Board’s