China hits back with new tariffs on US meat, fruit, other products

Beijing: China said it is imposing new tariffs on meat, fruit and other products from the United States as retaliation against taxes approved by US President Donald Trump on imported steel and aluminum.

The Chinese finance ministry said in a statement that the new tariffs would begin this Monday. The announcement follows warnings Chinese officials have made for several weeks in an escalating trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

China’s Customs Tariff Commission is increasing the tariff rate on pork products and aluminum scrap by 25 per cent. It’s also imposing a new 15 per cent tariff on 120 other imported US commodities, from almonds to apples and berries.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The tariffs mirror Trump’s 25 per cent charge on imported steel and 15 per cent hike on aluminum. Trump has also announced separate plans to slap tariffs on nearly $US50 billion in Chinese imports. Trump’s planned tariffs are partly aimed at punishing Beijing for allegedly stealing American technology and pressuring US companies to hand it over.

But the Chinese response could end up hurting American ranchers and farmers, many of whom are from regions that voted for Trump in 2016.

US farmers shipped nearly $US20 billion of goods to China in 2017. The American pork industry sent $US1.1 billion in products, making China the No 3 market for US pork.

Australia is increasingly concerned about being caught in the crossfire between the two global economic power houses.

An exemption to US steel tariffs that was granted to Australia and six other trade partners will expire on May 1, and Australia will face steel quotas, the White House announced last month.

The Australian government has been told the US is concerned some nations may try to circumnavigate the tariffs by pushing steel to the US through countries such as Australia which have secured an exemption. The US will use the time before its final decision in May to monitor this activity. Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, has been briefed by US officials on the arrangements.