Trade War escalates, with Liu He "under pressure" in Washington

Duties jump from 10% to 25% for 200 billion imported Chinese products. Vice Premier Liu He wants to show Beijing's "greatest sincerity" in finding the "best solution". China does not respect all the WTO rules. Beijing refuses to include precise laws and control mechanisms for implementing these laws on the text of the agreement. Trump supported by Republicans and Democrats, even Bernie Sanders.


Washington (AsiaNews) – As of today the United States has decreed a hike in duties on 200 billion of imported Chinese products. The taxes jump from 10% to 25% also for products such as fish, bags, shoes, confectionary.

The decision was taken last week by US president Donald Trump, who had accused China of being "too slow" in the ongoing trade negotiations between the two powers.

Until a few weeks ago the negotiations - which have been going on for months - seemed very "productive", and seemed to have reached an agreement on many controversial points, but then Trump declared that Beijing had "broken the agreement" resulting in his decision to raise import taxes.

China, for its part, has criticized the US decision, stating that it will be forced to take "the necessary counter-measures", also raising taxes on US imports. At the same time, it sent a delegation to Washington led by Vice-Premier Liu He to continue the dialogue.

Liu arrived in the US capital last night and had a business dinner with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He admitted to being "under pressure", but also said he wanted to show Beijing's "greatest sincerity" in finding the "best solution".

A softening signal came last night from Trump, who announced that he had received a "nice letter" from President Xi Jinping and that he would perhaps talk to him on the phone.

The reasons for the stall

What led to the hardening of negotiations over the past few days is not clear. It seemed that China had accepted many of the US criticisms: rebalancing the China-US trade balance; defense of copyrights; forced transfer of technologies; equal treatment between foreign and Chinese companies.

Several analysts attribute the escalation to the traditional US attempt to curb Chinese growth and its aspirations to become a superpower; many western governments are also increasingly nervous about China's growing influence in the world economy.

Others point out that China, despite having entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2001 and while showing that it is a superpower, does not comply with all the WTO rules, especially in terms of copyright protection and favoritism towards Chinese industries.

Sources close to the China-US dialogues say Beijing has promised in general to defend intellectual property and to treat Chinese and foreign companies fairly, but refuses to insert precise laws on the text of the agreement and to put in place control and verification mechanisms for the implementation of these laws.

At home, Trump's bold attitude is being criticized by some representatives of the Democratic Party, first and foremost Joe Biden, a candidate in the 2020 presidential election. But his positions have found support both among the Republicans and the Democrats, including that of another presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders.

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