Donald Trump sharply escalated his trade war with Beijing on Friday, more than doubling tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese imports as talks between China’s top negotiator and US officials failed to produce a breakthrough.
The US president’s decision to push ahead with a threat to increase tariffs from 10 per cent to 25 per cent sets the stage for a tense final day of negotiations between Liu He, China’s vice-premier, and Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, in Washington.
In a statement issued on Friday just after midday Beijing time, China’s commerce ministry said it “deeply regretted” the move and repeated its earlier vow to “take necessary countermeasures”.
But the ministry also expressed optimism that a negotiated settlement could still be reached, citing Mr Liu’s discussions with Mr Lighthizer. “The 11th round of trade consultations is under way,” it said. “It is hoped the US and Chinese sides will meet each other halfway.”
Earlier in the day, Mr Liu told China Central Television that his decision to travel to Washington this week “under pressure” was a sign of China’s “sincerity”. “I think there is hope,” he added.
Mr Trump’s tariff move — following through on a threat he made on Sunday that has roiled global markets all week — comes a day after the talks failed to offer any signs of concrete progress.
“This evening, Ambassador Lighthizer and [Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin met with President Trump to discuss the ongoing trade negotiations with China. The ambassador and secretary then had a working dinner with Vice-Premier Liu He, and agreed to continue discussions tomorrow morning,” the White House said on Thursday evening.
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump had said he expected to speak “soon” with Xi Jinping, China’s president, but there was no evidence of a call as the deadline for the tariff increase, set for 12.01am eastern time on Friday, approached.