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article imageTrump poised to make major China trade announcement

By Douglas Gillison (AFP)     Sep 17, 2018 in Business

US President Donald Trump was poised to ratchet up his trade dispute with China, with a major announcement promised later Monday that could see hundreds of billions in goods subjected to fresh import duties.

Trump is due to make the announcement after the close of US stock markets, where major indices were already sinking sharply in anticipation of what could be a major escalation in the US-China trade conflict.

Speaking at the White House, Trump promised "some very positive news" and said that "it will be a lot of money coming into the coffers."

The president has vowed to put punitive tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods, meaning tariffs would now affect roughly half of what the United States buys from China -- its largest source of imported merchandise.

Amid continued trade tensions with the world's second largest economy, Trump "has not been satisfied with the talks with China on this (and) my guess is announcements will be coming soon," economic advisor Larry Kudlow said earlier Monday on CNBC.

Kudlow declined to specify details of the expected announcement but noted that reports indicating Trump will unveil 10 percent duties on $200 billion in imports are "more or less correct."

In Beijing, China's foreign ministry has already vowed to strike back.

"If the US launches any new tariff measures, China will have to take countermeasures to firmly ensure our legitimate rights and interests," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a regular press briefing on Monday.

Only last week, Beijing said it welcomed overtures from US officials offering to re-start trade talks, but press reports indicate China would call off any meetings if the new punitive duties take effect.

On Wall Street, all three major indices were solidly in the red toward 1930 GMT and word of the fresh round of tariffs had already sent Chinese stocks tumbling more than one percent, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index falling to 2,651.79, the lowest level since 2014.

In a pair of early morning tweets, Trump hailed his combative trade policy as a boon to American economic health and said the US steel industry, which the White House has championed in new protectionist measures, was now "the talk of the world."

"Tariffs have put the US in a very strong bargaining position, with Billions of Dollars, and Jobs, flowing into our Country -- and yet cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable," Trump said.

- 'Tariffed!' -

He also threatened punitive action against nations that won't deal fairly with Washington.

"If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be 'Tariffed!'"

While US inflation has continued to rise steadily albeit modestly, firms across the country report lost businesses, layoffs and possible bankruptcies as input costs rise and exports fall.

Multiple reports in recent days cited officials saying Trump had decided to press ahead with new tariffs, but at a lower rate of 10 percent after initially announcing they should be hiked to 25 percent in light of China's alleged intransigence.

A lower tariff rate could soften the blow to US consumers and manufacturers among others ahead of key US congressional elections in November.

According to a preliminary list of goods released by the US Trade Representative's office in July, in just a few examples, Washington is considering putting tariffs on roughly $40 billion in Chinese-made voice data receivers, computer memory modules, automatic data processors, and accessories for office equipment such as copiers and bank note dispensers -- instantly making widely used goods more expensive.

Lobbying against the tariffs has risen sharply in Washington but Trump's policy has left candidates in competitive races for November's hard-fought midterm congressional elections in awkward positions.

Some Republicans in export-dependent areas have fallen silent on trade or sought to push back. But some Democrats, who broadly oppose the president's agenda and are banking on his unpopularity, have adopted critical views of trade agreements and free trade.

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