China first among equals of US trade war targets

03 August 2019
China first among equals of US trade war targets
US President Donald J. Trump responds to a question from the news media as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 02 August 2019. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA

US President Donald Trump has launched trade disputes with a number of partners around the world, but China is at the forefront. Here are various fronts in the US trade war.

- China –

On Thursday, Trump stunned the world by slapping new tariffs on China, even though the US had said earlier this week that negotiations were constructive.

Tariffs of 10 percent on $300 billion of Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect on September 1, on top of 25 percent tariffs already in place on more than $250 billion in Chinese goods. 

That means that virtually all of the $660 billion in annual trade of goods between the world's two biggest economies will be subjected to tariffs.

Beijing has slapped tariffs on $110 billion in US goods meanwhile, and on Friday threatened to impose more if Washington goes ahead with the additional levies.

Trump has been pushing the Chinese for more than a year to halt massive state industrial subsidies, as well as their policy of forcing foreign companies to transfer technology to Chinese partners and allegedly stealing intellectual property.

- European Union –

Officially, there is a truce in place, but Trump regularly threatens to slap tariffs on more European goods in addition to those on steel and aluminum that came into effect last year.

Trump's latest potential targets for tariffs included French wines along with whiskies and cheese from EU members.

The EU has six months from May 17 to negotiate a deal that covers the auto sector.

Washington wants to discuss agricultural trade as well, but France has resisted.

- Canada and Mexico –

Following months of tense talks, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) took a major step towards replacing the NAFTA trade pact that had ensured free trade in North America for the past quarter century when Mexico ratified the deal in June.

Both the US and Canada have yet to follow suit, and Democratic lawmakers in the US are seeking a number of changes.

Meanwhile, Trump has cast doubt on the agreement by threatening Mexico with tariffs to force the country to stem the flow of migrants to the US.

- India –

India is the latest target of Trump's wrath, with the US halting in June trade advantages that Indian goods had enjoyed.

"India has long had a field day putting Tariffs on American products. No longer acceptable!" Trump tweeted.

Washington removed India from a list of countries that received duty-free access for more than $6.0 billion of imports to the US earlier this year. The move came on the back of higher US tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium.

India replied with duties on 28 goods from the United States, including almonds and apples.

- Iran –

In late July, the US imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, upping the ante once more in Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure" against Tehran, which the US accuses of destabilising the Middle East.

In May, the US had tightened sanctions against the Islamic republic, adding steel, iron, aluminium and copper to the sectors targeted with punitive measures. 

Trump reimposed economic sanctions against Tehran in August 2018 after the US pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the six powers, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015, Iran had agreed to halt its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of biting sanctions. 

A first volley of the new sanctions, which took effect last year, affected the auto and civil aviation sectors and blocked financial transactions and imports of raw materials.