Hopes for an early settlement of the yearlong US-China trade war dimmed this week after the United States accused China of manipulating its currency, and US President Donald Trump said he would not make a deal with Beijing for now.
Last July, US President Donald Trump followed through on months of threats to impose sweeping tariffs on China for its alleged unfair trade practices.
The following timeline details key moments in the souring trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
2019, August 9: Trump says he is not ready to make a deal with Beijing and suggests he may cancel in-person trade talks with China scheduled for Washington in September. The US president also says the United States will continue to refrain from doing business with Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei, an apparent rollback of his promise during the meeting with Xi.
2019, August 6: China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, says Beijing has not and will not use the yuan to respond to trade frictions. A senior Trump aide says US-China trade talks are still planned in Washington in September, and the latest tariffs could still be changed if talks go well, a message that helps calm markets.
2019, August 5: China’s Commerce Ministry responds to the latest US tariffs by halting purchases of US agricultural products, and the Chinese currency, the yuan, weakens past the key seven per dollar level, sending equity markets sharply lower.
After US markets close, the US Treasury says it has determined for the first time since 1994 that China is manipulating its currency, knocking the US dollar sharply lower and sending gold prices to a six-year high.
2019, August 1: After two days of trade talks with little progress and complaints by Trump that China has not followed through on a promise to buy more US farm products, he announces 10% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, in addition to the 25% already levied on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. Trump says the talks between Washington and Beijing would continue despite the new tariffs, and that the rate could be increased above 25 percent in stages.
2019, June 29: At the G20 meeting in Osaka, the United States and China formally agree to restart trade talks after concessions from both sides. Trump agrees to no new tariffs and an easing of restrictions on Chinese telecom powerhouse Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. China agrees to unspecified new purchases of US farm products.
2019, June 18: Trump and Xi speak by phone, and the two sides agree to rekindle trade talks ahead of a planned meeting between the two leaders scheduled for the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Japan at the end of June.
2019, May 8: The Trump administration gives formal notice of its intent to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25% from 10%, effective May 10.
Earlier, Reuters reported that China had backtracked on almost all aspects of a draft US-China trade pact.
2019, May 5: Trump tweets that he intends to raise the tariffs rate on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% on May 10.
2019, February 24: Trump extends the March 1 deadline, leaving the tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods at 10% on an open-ended basis.
2018, December 1: The United States and China agree on a 90-day halt to new tariffs. Trump agrees to put off the Jan. 1 scheduled increase on tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods until early March while talks between the two countries take place. China agrees to buy a “very substantial” amount of US products.
2018, September 24: The United States implements 10% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. The administration says the rate will increase to 25% on Jan. 1, 2019. China answers with duties of its own on $60 billion of US goods.
2018, September 7: Trump threatens tariffs on $267 billion more of Chinese imports.
2018 August 23: Tariffs on goods appearing on the Aug. 7 lists from both the United States and China take effect.
2018, August 7: The United States releases the list of $16 billion of Chinese goods to be subject to 25% tariffs. China retaliates with 25% duties on $16 billion of US goods.
2018, August 1: Trump orders USTR to increase the tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25% from the originally proposed 10%.
2018, July 10: The United States unveils plans for 10% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports.
2018, June 15: The United States sets an effective date of July 6 for 25% levies on $34 billion of Chinese imports. It says 25% tariffs will also kick in on an additional $16 billion of goods after a public comment period. China responds in kind with tariffs on $34 billion of US goods.
2018, April 4: China responds with plans for retaliatory tariffs on about $50 billion of US imports.
2018, April 3: Trump unveils plans for 25% tariffs on about $50 billion of Chinese imports.
2018, April 2: China imposes tariffs of up to 25% on 128 US products.
2018, March 8: Trump orders 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% on aluminum from all suppliers - not just China.
2018, January 22: Trump imposes tariffs on all imported washing machines and solar panels - not just those from China.
2018, January 17: Trump, in a Reuters interview, threatens a big “fine” on China over alleged IP theft, without providing details.
2017, August 14: Trump orders “Section 301” probe into alleged Chinese intellectual property theft, described as his first direct trade measure against Beijing. Section 301 refers to the part of a 1974 trade law that lays out how the United States should enforce its rights under trade agreements.
2017, July 19: The two sides fail to agree on new steps to reduce the US deficit with China after the 100 days of talks.
2017, April 7: At their first meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree to a 100-day plan for trade talks.
2017, March 31: Trump, now president, signs two executive orders. One calls for tighter tariff enforcement in anti-subsidy and anti-dumping trade cases. The other orders a review of US trade deficits and their causes.
2016, June 28: While campaigning for the White House, Trump lays out plans to counter unfair trade practices from China at a rally in Pennsylvania. He also threatens to apply tariffs under sections 201 and 301 of US trade legislation, which he subsequently does. He says China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization enabled the “greatest jobs theft in history.”
But a White House official later says that Trump was referring to a ban on US government purchases of Huawei equipment, not requests for sales by US companies, which are still being assessed by the Commerce Department.
Events leading up to the US-China trade war
2011, September 21: Before running for president, Trump tweets “China is neither an ally or a friend — they want to beat us and own our country.” The tweet is among several statements he makes criticizing China’s trade practices before running for president.
2016, May 2: While campaigning for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Trump says “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.” The statement is one of many that Trump makes on the campaign trail about China’s trade practices.
2017, April 6-7: Xi visits Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where they agree to set up a 100 Day Action Plan to resolve trade differences.
2017, April 28: The USTR is authorized to investigate whether steel/aluminum imports pose a threat to national security.
2017, May 22: US and China agree to a trade deal that would give US firms greater access to China’s agriculture, energy, and financial markets, while China gains access to sell cooked poultry to the US.
2017, August 18: The USTR initiates an investigation into certain acts, policies, and practices of the Chinese government relating to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.
2017, November 8-10: Trump pays a “state visit plus” to China, where relations were considered to have warmed.
2018, February 7: The US implements ‘global safeguard tariffs’ – placing a 30 percent tariff on all solar panel imports, except for those from Canada, (worth US$8.5 billion) and a 20 percent tariff on washing machine imports (worth US$1.8 billion).
2018, March 22: Trump signs a memorandum directing the following acts:
To file a WTO case against China for their discriminatory licensing practices;
To restrict investment in key technology sectors; and
To impose tariffs on Chinese products (such as aerospace, information communication technology, and machinery).
2018, March 23: US imposes a 25 percent tariff on all steel imports (except Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and South Korea) and a 10 percent tariff on all aluminum imports (except Argentina and Australia).
2018, April 2: China imposes tariffs
(ranging 15-25 percent) on 128 products (worth US$3 billion) including fruit, wine, seamless steel pipes, pork and recycled aluminum in retaliation to the US’ steel and aluminum tariffs.
2018, April 3: The USTR releases an initial list of 1,334 proposed products (worth US$50 billion) subject to a potential 25 percent tariff (list revised June 15).
2018, April 4: China reacts to USTR’s initial list, and proposes 25 percent tariffs to be applied on 106 products (worth US$50 billion) on goods such as soybeans, automobile, chemicals (list revised on June 16).
2018, April 16: US Department of Commerce concludes that Chinese telecom company ZTE violated US sanctions. US companies are banned from doing business with ZTE for seven years.
2018, April 17: China announces anti-dumping duties of 178.6 percent on imports of sorghum from the US.
2018, May 3-7: US-China engage in trade talks in Beijing, where the US demands that China reduce the trade gap by US$200 billion within two years. Talks end with no resolution.
2018, May 13: Trump promises to help ZTE in a tweet.
2018, May 18: China’s Commerce Ministry announces that it will stop tariffs on US sorghum at negotiations.
2018, May 20: US and China agree to put the trade war on hold after China reportedly agrees to buy more US goods.
2018, May 29: US reinstates tariff plans after brief truce.
2018, June 4-5: Two days of trade talks between US and China held in Beijing.
2018, June 7: US and ZTE agree to deal that will allow ZTE to resume business.
2018, June 15: Initial list of products reduced and finalized. List 1 now implements a 25 percent tariff on a reduced 818 products (from 1,334) and is set to take effect on July 6, 2018. List 2 of 284 new products is also announced and under consideration.
2018, June 16: China revises its initial tariff list (25 percent on 106 products) to now include a 25 percent tariff on 545 products (valued at US$34 billion). This tariff will take effect July 6, 2018. China also proposes a second round of 25 percent tariffs on a further 114 products (valued at US$16 billion).
So far, the US has already slapped tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese products and has threatened tariffs on US$325 billion more over the past year. Trump has further announced new tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports to take effect from September 1.
China, for its part, has set tariffs on US$110 billion worth of US goods and is threatening qualitative measures that would affect US businesses operating in China.
With neither Trump nor Chinese President Xi Jinping willing to back down, US-China trade tensions could erupt into a full-blown trade war. China’s own Ministry of Commerce warned that the dispute may even lead to “the largest trade war in economic history to date”.