The US-China Trade War: A Timeline
This article is continually updated as new developments occur. It was last updated on May 13, 2020.
In July 2018, US President Donald Trump followed through on months of threats to impose sweeping tariffs on China for its alleged unfair trade practices.
Over the 18 months that have followed since, the two countries have been embroiled in countless back-and-forth negotiations, a tit-for-tat tariff war, introduced foreign technology restrictions, fought several WTO cases, consequently leading US-China trade tensions to the brink of a full-blown trade war.
So far, the US has slapped tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products. China, in turn, has set tariffs on US$185 billion worth of US goods.
Both sides have also threatened qualitative measures that affect US businesses operating in China.
The ink on the Phase One trade deal was barely dry before a global pandemic broke out, find out how COVID-19 might affect the deal.
For many months, neither Trump nor China’s President, Xi Jinping, showed signs of wanting to back down.
But finally, on January 15, 2020, the first signs of a truce were seen, when the two sides signed the Phase One Deal, which officially agreed to the rollback of tariffs, expansion of trade purchases, and renewed commitments on intellectual property, technology transfer, and currency practices.
Here, we present a timeline of the major events in the trade conflict, what led up to it, and how the two countries are attempting to deescalate the situation.
US-China trade war
Total US tariffs applied exclusively to Chinese goods: US$550 billion
Total Chinese tariffs applied exclusively to US goods: US$185 billion
Day 677: May 12 – China announces new list of US commodities excluded from tariffs from May 19, 2020 to May 18, 2021
China’s State Council Customs Tariff Commission announced a new list of 79 US products eligible to be excluded from retaliatory tariffs. The latest list includes US imports of medical disinfectants, rare earth ores, silver and gold ores and concentrates, and some nickel and aluminum alloy products. (Full list can be found here). This tariff waiver will take effect from May 19, 2020 through to May 18, 2021.
This is the fifth list of US items exempted from tariffs issued by China; China has been exempting certain US imports in phases since September last year. Earlier this February, an additional 696 US products (including key agricultural and energy products) were exempted from punitive tariffs – which was seen as a move to kickstart the implementation of the China-US phase one deal signed in January.
Day 673: May 8 – China-US reaffirm their phase one trade deal commitments over the phone
According to an announcement made by the USTR, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, representatives from the two countries spoke on the phone to pledge their continued support for the phase one trade deal, which took effect earlier this February.
On the US side, the two Trump cabinet officials said in a joint statement that both sides “agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.”
In confirmation, China’s Commerce Ministry released a statement saying that the two sides agreed to improve the atmosphere for implementation of the phase one deal, which calls for Beijing to boost its purchases from the US by US$200 billion, over two years, compared to the 2017 baseline.
Already, China has ramped up its imports of US pork, purchasing 40,200 tons of meat just in early May, the largest order since October 2019. This comes as US meat output has dropped by more than 30 percent due to slaughterhouse closures under COVID-19.
Day 626: February 21, 2020 – China unveils new tariff exemption lists for US imports
China’s Tariff Commission unveiled two new lists to exempt some of the US imports from additional Chinese tariffs. The two lists will both be effective for one year from February 28, 2020 to February 27, 2021. List 1 and 2 will exempt 55 and 10 types of US commodities, respectively, including timber, presswork, hydraulic motor, diaphragm pump, aircraft parts, and medical equipment like non-invasive ventilators and temperature sensors.
Day 622: February 17, 2020 – China grants tariff exemptions on 696 US goods to support purchases
According to the announcement by China’s Tariff Commission, 696 US commodities will be exempted from Chinese additional tariffs, as the Chinese government seeks to fulfill the commitments made in the trade deal with the US.
The 696 products include pork, beef, soybeans, wheat, corn, sorghum, ethanol, liquefied natural gas, crude oil, steel rails, and some medical equipment.
From March 2, 2020, the Tariff Commission will accept applications from Chinese companies that intend to sign contracts to purchase and import related goods from the US.
Day 612: February 7, 2020 – China will halve tariffs on US$75 billion worth of goods, in line with phase one deal
China’s Finance Ministry announced that it will halve tariffs on 1,717 US goods, lowering the tariff on some items from 10 percent to 5 percent, and others from 5 percent to 2.5 percent to take effect February 14, 2020. The tariff cuts will apply to a list of additional tariffs that took effect on September 1, worth US$75 billion.
The announcement reciprocates the US commitment under the Phase One Trade Deal to slash tariffs from 15 to 7.5 percent on US$120 billion worth of goods on the same date.
Crude oil, meat products, and soybean are among products that stand to benefit from the tariff cuts. The reductions will see crude oil tariffs drop from 5 percent to 2.5 percent, soybean tariffs from 30 percent to 27.5 percent, and tariffs on pork, beef, and chicken, drop from 35 percent to 30 percent.
For more information, see our article here.
Day 565: January 15, 2020 – US, China sign phase one trade deal
On Wednesday morning, US and China finally signed the long-awaited phase one trade deal at the White House, easing 18-month trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.
Most significantly, the phase one deal (full text which can be found here) will cut US tariffs and boost China’s purchases of US products.
The Trump administration scrapped tariffs initially set to take effect last month and reaffirmed its commitment to reducing duties from 15 to 7.5 percent on US$120 billion worth of Chinese products. However, the agreement will still leave tariffs on US$250 billion in Chinese products in place.
China, on its part, agreed to purchase at least an additional US$200 billion worth of US goods and services over the next two years – above a baseline of US$186 billion purchases in 2017.
- US$ 78 billion in additional manufactured goods;
- US$ 54 billion in additional energy purchases;
- US$ 32 billion in additional farm products purchases; and
- US$ 38 billion worth of services.
Details on specific product purchases in each of the categories will not be released as both sides feel such disclosure could risk distorting markets.
The phase one deal, which is 96 pages long, also touches upon issues long-disputed by China and the US, such as: intellectual property, technology transfer, currency, and foreign exchange.
Day 563: January 13, 2020 – US officially drops China’s currency manipulator label
The US Treasury Department dropped its designation of China as a currency manipulator, two days before the two sides are due to sign a preliminary trade agreement.
Day 532: December 13, 2019 – China releases second set of US products to be excluded from additional tariffs
China’s Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council announced Thursday that it had released the second set of US goods to be excluded from the first round of additional tariffs. The exemption will be effective for a year, from December 26, 2019 to December 25, 2020.
Previously, in September, China had announced two lists of goods to be excluded from its first round of counter-tariffs on US products. Tariffs that were already imposed will not be refunded. The Commission also stated that it would not be excluding more US products that were subject to the first round of additional tariffs – for now.
However, the exemption process on US products subject to the second round of additional tariffs will proceed as normal, and new exemption lists will be released in due course.
Day 526: December 13, 2019 – US, China agree to ‘phase one deal’ just before next tariff hike
China and the US announced that they had reached a phase one trade deal Friday, just prior to new tariffs coming into effect on Sunday that would have affected the mass of consumer goods, including popular electronics like smartphones and laptops.
The US has agreed not to proceed with 15 percent tariffs on US$160 billion worth of consumer goods scheduled to take effect December 15, and will reduce the September 1 tariffs on US$120 billion of Chinese goods – halving it from 15 to 7.5 percent. However, the 25 percent tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese imports will maintain, and further reductions will be linked to progress in future trade negotiations.
China, on its part, has agreed to increase the purchase of US goods and services by at least US$200 billion over the next two years, suspend retaliatory tariffs also scheduled for Sunday, implement intellectual property safeguards, and have a tariff exclusion process in place. It appears that among its potential purchases, China will import US agricultural products worth US$40 billion to US$50 billion – in each of the next two years.
Day 509: November 26, 2019 – US releases new regulatory guidelines for its telecom networks procedure to protect telecom networks from national security threats
The US Commerce Department has issued a notice introducing a new procedure for identifying, assessing, and addressing transactions that pose a national security risk to its telecommunications network and service supply chain.
The procedure will give the US government power to restrict US companies from importing and using foreign technology in their domestic supply chain infrastructure. According to Secretary Wilbur Ross, whether a transaction will be prohibited or mitigated will be considered on a “case-by-case, fact-specific basis.”
While the document makes no mention of Huawei or ZTE equipment, it might impact the two Chinese companies as they were placed on the US entity “blacklist”, earlier in May, and on Friday, November 22, were voted unanimously as national security risks by the US Federal Communications Commissions.
Day 493-494: November 7-8, 2019 – US and China Talk Tariff Rollback
The US and China have, in principle, agreed to discussing rolling back tariffs on each other’s goods in phases. This will be done in the same proportion and simultaneously, once the two sides sign a “phase one” deal, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.
Commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday, November 7, that top negotiators on both sides had held “serious and constructive discussions on solving issues of core concerns” in the past two weeks. No further details were released, such as when such an agreement would be signed, and the tariff rollback begin.
The same day, US National Economic Council director, Larry Kudlow, confirmed the Chinese claim of what a tariff accord would look like, telling news media that: “If there’s a Phase 1 trade deal, there are going to be tariff agreements and concessions.”
However, on Friday, November 8, US President Donald Trump appeared to contradict his own trade representatives. He told reporters, “China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback because they know I won’t do it.” This makes unclear any chances of a trade accord getting signed this year.
Day 487: November 1, 2019 – China wins WTO case, able to sanction US$3.6 billion worth US imports
The World Trade Organization (WTO) said Friday that China can impose compensatory sanctions on US imports worth US$3.6 billion for the US failure to abide by anti-dumping rules on Chinese products. The announcement centers on a WTO case that originated nearly six years ago, long before the trade war.
According to news sources, the US is disappointed in the decision and a US official responded by saying that the arbitration panel “overstates the amount of the impact on China” and that the WTO’s approach had “no foundation in economic analysis.”
Day 487: November 1, 2019 – US, China negotiators talk over phone, agree on trade points “in principle”
China’s Vice Premier Liu He, US Trade Representative Wright Heze, and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin engaged in “serious and constructive discussions” over the phone on core trade concerns on Friday and reached a “consensus on principle” for the next round of trade talks, according to an announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
The White House, on its part, stated that “progress was made in a variety of areas” and that “discussions will continue at a deputy level.”
Day 470: October 18, 2019 – US tariff exclusion process for US$300 billion of Chinese imports
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) recently announced it is launching a new round of tariff exclusion for certain Chinese products starting October 31, 2019 through to January 31, 2020.
The exclusion process will apply to Chinese products that were subject to an additional 15 percent tariff through the August 2019 action under Section 301, in effect since September 1, 2019 (List 4A).
Day 463: October 11, 2019 – US announces “Phase 1” deal, delays tariff increase for Chinese goods
Following a two day meeting on October 10-11 in Washington DC, US President Donald Trump announced that negotiators from the US and China had reached a “Phase 1” agreement that will take several weeks to finalize. As part of the Phase 1 agreement, China will reportedly purchase US$40-50 billion in US agricultural products annually, strengthen intellectual property provisions, and issue new guidelines on how it manages its currency.
President Trump also announced that the US would delay a tariff increase scheduled to go into effect on October 15. The delay will apply to tariffs that were scheduled to increase to 30 percent on US$250 billion of Chinese goods. The delay appears to be an extension of a previous tariff increase delay – from October 1 to October 15 – for tariffs that were scheduled to increase from 25 to 30 percent.
Day 442: September 20, 2019 – US releases new tariff exemption lists, which exempt over 400 Chinese goods from tariffs
The excluded items mainly consist of types of equipment or material, such as organic synthetic materials, daily necessities, chemicals, textiles, mechanical and electrical equipment, chemical products, and steel products.
Day 441-442: September 19-20, 2019 – US-China mid-level trade talks in Washington
US and China held mid-level trade talks in Washington ahead of the high-level trade talks scheduled for October.
The two countries agreed to keep communicating on related trade issues and discussed the details of the 13th round of bilateral high-level economic and trade consultations scheduled for October as reported by state media.
Day 435: September 13, 2019 – China exempts various agricultural products from additional tariffs
In response to the US delaying the anticipated tariffs hikes to October 15, Xinhua News Agency announced that China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Commerce will exclude imports of US soybeans, pork, and other farm goods from additional trade war tariffs.
Day 433: September 11, 2019 – China unveils tariff exemption list for US imports
China’s Tariff Commission of the State Council announced that it will exempt 16 types of US imports from additional tariffs, which include products, such as pesticides, animal feeds, lubricants, and cancer drugs. The two lists will be effective for a year, from September 17, 2019 through to September 16, 2020.
Exemption List 1 cover US products, such as shrimp and prawn seedlings, lubricants, and alfalfa meal while, Exemption List 2 affect products, such release agent, whey for fodder, Iso-alkane solvent, and lubricating base oil. Enterprises importing goods from list 1 may apply to Customs for refund of the duties already paid, but must do so within six months from the date of the promulgation of the list.
Separately, President Trump tweeted that United States have agreed to delay increasing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, out of respect for the People’s Republic of China’s 70th Anniversary, and “as a gesture of good will.”
Day 427: September 5, 2019 – China and US agree to 13th round of trade talks
China and the US have agreed to hold high-level trade talks in Washington DC in early October, announced China’s Ministry of Commerce. Trade teams from both countries will begin consultations mid-September in preparation for these high-level talks. “The two sides agreed that they should work together and take practical actions to create favorable conditions for consultations,” the announcement stated.
Day 424: September 2, 2019 – China lodges WTO tariff case against the US
China has lodged a complaint against the US over import tariffs affecting US$300 billion of Chinese exports, according to an announcement made by China’s Ministry of Commerce. This is the third lawsuit that China has brought to the WTO challenging US tariffs against Chinese imports.
Under WTO rules, Washington DC has 60 days to try to settle the latest dispute. The US previously published a written defense for the first of the three legal cases brought by China, asserting that the current set of tariffs should not be judged at the WTO.
Day 423: September 1, 2019 – Tariffs come in force as scheduled
As announced, the US began implementing tariffs on more than US$125 billion worth of Chinese imports (list 4A) starting Sunday; goods affected range from footwear, diapers, and food products to smart watches, dishwashers, and flat-panel televisions. Beijing, in turn, began imposing additional tariffs on some of the goods on a US$75 billion (list 1). This includes a five percent tariff on US crude oil.
Day 417: August 26, 2019 – Liu calls for calm, Trump says talks will proceed
According to Caixin, China’s top trade negotiator Vice Premier Liu He called for calm amid the recent escalation of trade war threats. Liu reportedly told an audience that China “firmly opposes” the recent escalation of the trade war. Liu also said the escalation of the trade war was “against the interest of China, the US, and the entire world”. US President Donald Trump later told the media, “China called last night our trade people and said, ‘let’s get back to the table’, so we’ll be getting back to the table, and I think they want to do something”.
Day 416: August 25, 2019 – Trump, White House make contradictory statements
US President Donald Trump told the media he was having “second thoughts” about the tariffs he had levied against China. Later, a White House spokesperson said that the only regret Trump had was that he had not imposed higher tariffs on China.
Day 414: August 23, 2019 – China announces US$75 billion in tariffs on US goods, Trump threatens tariff increases on Chinese goods
The Customs Tariff Commission of China’s State Council announced US$75 billion in tariffs on US goods. Five and 10 percent tariffs will be imposed on 5,078 US goods in two batches, from September 1 (list 1) and December 15, 2019 (list 2), respectively. Later on the same day, the State Council approved to reinstate Chinese tariffs on US automotive and auto parts starting December 15, 2019. The five and 25 percent Chinese tariffs on US automotive and auto parts had been exempted since January 1, 2019. The first batch of US goods that will be affected from September 1 are organized in four parts:
- Part 1 includes 270 agriculture products that will be subject to a 10 percent tariff;
- Part 2 includes 646 agriculture products and some industrial products that will be subject to a 10 percent tariff;
- Part 3 includes 64 agriculture products that will be subject to a five percent tariff; and
- Part 4 includes 737 agriculture products, ores, chemicals, and some industrial products that will be subject to a five percent tariff.
The second batch of US goods that will be affected from December 15 are also organized in four parts:
- Part 1 includes 749 agriculture products, as well as chemicals, woods, stones and industrial products, that will be subject to a ten percent tariff;
- Part 2 includes 163 automotive products and some other industrial products that will be subject to a ten percent tariff;
- Part 3 includes 634 agriculture products, chemicals, some pharmaceutical products, and some industrial products, which will be subject to a five percent tariff; and
- Part 4 includes 1815 agriculture products, wood products, paper products, textile products, industrial products, and auto parts that will be subject to a five percent tariff.
China’s retaliatory tariff on US$75 billion worth of US goods was released after the USTR announcement of tariffs on August 13 on US$300 billion worth of Chinese goods – scheduled to begin on September 1 (list 4A) and December 15 (list 4B). US President Trump reacted to the August 23 announcement on Twitter, stating, “American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China”. Subsequent reports indicated that this threat was based on a controversial interpretation of the US’ International Emergency Powers Economic Act (IEPA) from 1977. Later, Trump tweeted that the US would increase tariffs on US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports that was being tariffed from September 1. And from October 1, 2019, US tariffs on the remaining US$250 billion of Chinese goods would be increased from 25 to 30 percent.
Day 404: August 13, 2019 – US and China agree to talk again in two weeks
China’s Commerce Ministry states that US and China have agreed to restart talks on the phone in two weeks. This is expected to happen just days before September 1 – when the additional tariff is to come into force. The statement was made after Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin over the phone on August 13. China’s Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Central Bank governor Yi Gang, and Deputy Director of the NDRC Ning Jizhe are confirmed to attend the next scheduled call.
Day 404: August 13, 2019 – US delays tariffs on certain products and removes items from the list
The USTR announced it is delaying the imposition of additional tariffs on certain Chinese imports to December 15. A 10 percent tariff on a host of Chinese products is still to come into effect on September 1. The delayed tariffs would have affected the cost of items of mass consumption, including cell phones, laptops, video game consoles, computer monitors, certain items of footwear and clothing, and certain toys. Besides delaying tariffs on some goods, the USTR is removing certain products from the scope of additional tariffs, citing “health, safety, national security” factors. An exclusion process for these products will be conducted, according to the USTR.
Day 397: August 6, 2019 – Chinese companies suspend new US agricultural product purchases
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Commerce on August 6, certain Chinese companies have suspended purchasing US agricultural products. The statement also makes clear that the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council will not rule out import tariffs on newly purchased US agricultural products after August 3. As a result, some Chinese companies have decided to suspend such imports.
Day 397: August 6, 2019 – US declares China is a currency manipulator
The US Treasury declares China to be a currency manipulator, after the yuan sunk to 7 against the US dollar – its lowest level in 11 years – in apparent retaliation to the new punitive tariffs threatened to apply on the remainder of Chinese imports. The declaration accuses China of manipulating its currency “to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade,” and states that the US Treasury Secretary will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate the advantages created by China’s latest actions Not surprisingly, the People’s Bank of China has refuted these claims in a strongly worded statement, maintaining that “China has never used and will not use the RMB exchange rate as a tool to deal with the trade frictions” and that “changes to the RMB exchange rate is determined by market supply and demand.”
Day 392: August 1, 2019 – Trump says US will impose 10 percent tariffs on another US$300 billion of Chinese goods starting September 1
“The U.S. will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country,” said Trump in a tweet. The surprise tariff announcement comes after the US and China ended trade talks in Shanghai just the day before. Following the meeting, the White House described the discussions as “constructive,” adding that China confirmed their commitment to increase purchases of US agricultural exports.
If imposed, this round tariffs will affect nearly all China’s imports to the US, including electronic and clothing consumer goods. Trump also threatened to raise tariffs to as much as 25 percent on US$250 billion worth of goods if China fails to move more quickly to reach a trade deal.
Day 390-391: July 30-31, 2019 – Shanghai trade talks end with little progress being made
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He met in Shanghai for two-day trade talks. This is the first face-to-face interaction since Xi and Trump met at the G20 Summit in June, and the first official high-level negotiation since May, this year. As most analysts predicted, the talks ended with little progress. Both sides agreed to keep talking and will meet again in September.
The talks centered around goodwill gestures, such as Chinese commitments to purchase US soybeans, pork, ethanol, and other agricultural commodities, and the US’ promise to ease sanctions on Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. The White House released a statement confirming China’s commitment to increase purchases of US agricultural exports, though no details were provided. China, also confirmed the discussion of procuring US agricultural products, but did not specify as to whether an agreement was made.
Day 376: July 16, 2019 – Trump threatens tariffs on US$325 billion of Chinese goods, new member on China’s negotiating team
President Trump once again threatens to slap tariffs on another US$325 billion of Chinese goods, despite promises not to following the truce after the G20 Summit, only two weeks prior. Meanwhile, China suddenly adds a new member to its negotiating team — commerce minister, Zhong Shan — viewed as a hardliner by many officials in Washington. Zhong was present at last month’s G20 summit and took part in a telephone conversation with US representatives last week.
Day 369: July 9, 2019 – US exempts 110 Chinese products from 25 percent tariffs, issues licenses to American Huawei suppliers
The Trump Administration announces that it will exempt 110 Chinese products, including medical equipment for cancer, from the 25 percent tariffs that were added on July 6, 2018. The exemption will be valid for a year from July 9, 2019. Further, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the US government will issue licenses to companies seeking to sell goods to Huawei where there is no security threat. Ross confirmed that Huawei would remain on the Entity List, meaning winning licenses would require overcoming a presumption of denial, and said the scope of items requiring licenses would not change.
Day 359: June 29, 2019 – Trade talks to restart, ban on Huawei relaxed
The US and China agreed to restart trade talks, following the tentative truce reached earlier in the week. No deadline has been imposed for the talks unlike the 90-day ceasefire agreed to last year at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. This means that a new round of tit-for-tat tariffs will remain on hold for the foreseeable future.More interestingly, President Trump also suggested relaxing the ban on US exports to China’s Huawei Technologies.
Both announcements bring immediate relief to Chinese trade negotiators who will now be keenly following the 2020 US elections. During his press conference, Trump appeared short on specifics besides clarifying, “We’re holding back on tariffs” and stating that US companies were “not exactly happy” about being unable to sell to the Chinese smartphone maker. Previously, the US had blacklisted the company by placing it on its ‘entity list’ and banned the sale of high-tech components and software to Huawei.
Day 356: June 26, 2019 – Tentative truce reached days before G20 Summit
The US and China have agree to a tentative truce in the lead up to their resumed trade talks in Osaka this weekend. Details of the agreement are being drawn up and are expected to be released prior to the meeting. The US has threatened 25 percent tariffs on a further US$300 billion of Chinese imports, which is expected to be halted. Sources quoted by the media suggest that Trump might propose a deadline of six months for the talks to reach an agreement. If this does culminate, it would mean the US would hold off on implementing further tariffs until the end of the year.
Day 351: June 21, 2019 – US adds another five Chinese entities to its ‘entity list’
US Commerce Department announces the addition of five new Chinese entities (including a state-owned enterprise) to its entity list, barring them from buying US parts and components without prior government approval. The new entities targeted are: Sugon, the Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology, Higon, Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, and Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology.
Day 349: June 19, 2019 – US Tariff Exemption Process for Chinese Imports
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) announces a process by which US interested parties could request the exclusion of certain Chinese products – subject to additional tariffs – as per the September 2018 list (List 3). The electronic portal for the submission of exclusion requests for products covered by the September 2018 list will open on June 30, 2019. (For more details see here).
Day 348: June 18, 2019 – Xi and Trump rekindle trade talks ahead of G20 meeting
Xi and Trump reignite trade talks over the phone, less than two weeks before the much anticipated G20 Summit in Osaka, June 28 and 29. Both sides have confirmed that they will meet in person to discuss the ongoing trade dispute, on the sidelines of the Summit. Previously, Trump threatened to slap tariffs on the remaining US$300 billion of untariffed Chinese imports, depending on the outcome of the trade talks. This will effect an array of consumer products, such as cellphones, computers, and clothing. These new tariffs have now been proposed in a bill, with public consultation set to end on July 2.
Day 332: June 2, 2019 – China issues white paper on US-China economic relations
Day 331: June 1, 2019 – China increases tariffs on US$60 billion worth of products
Tariffs of 25 percent, 20 percent, and 10 percent, which were first announced on May 13, 2019 are now in effect on US$60 billion worth of American goods exported to China. The specific changes are as follows:
- Products in list 1 will be subject to a tariff of 25 percent, up from 10 percent;
- Products in list 2 will be subject to a tariff of 20 percent, up from 10 percent;
- Products in list 3 will be subject to a tariff of 10 percent, up from five percent; and
- Products in list 4 will still be subject to a 5 percent tariff.
Separately, China announces that it has opened an official investigation into US shipping company FedEx for diverting packages from Japan, bound for China – to the US.
Day 330: May 31, 2019 – China establishes its very own ‘unreliable entities’ list
China announces that it will establish its very own unreliable entities list in retaliation to the US’ entity list. The unreliable list will include foreign enterprises, organizations, and individuals that do not obey market rules, violate contracts, and block, cut off supply for non-commercial reasons, or severely damage the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.
Day 316: May 16, 2019 – US places Huawei on its ‘entity list’, banning it from purchasing from US companies
The US Department of Commerce announces the addition of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd and its affiliates on its “entity list’, which effectively bans US companies from selling to the Chinese telecommunications company without US government approval.
Day 313: May 13, 2019 – China announces tariff hikes on US products, China launches tariff exemption system
China announces that it will increase tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US goods from June 1, 2019, in response to the tariff increases imposed by the US on May 10. The tariffs will apply to products originally released in Announcement 6, which amends the tariffs announced last September. Products affected include beef, lamb, pork, vegetables, juice, cooking oil, tea, coffee, refrigerators, and furniture, among many others.
Alongside tariff increases, the State Council Customs Tariff Committee have also launched a tariff exemption system for certain eligible products. (See full Chinese announcement here and unofficial English version here). On a trial basis, the document allows imported US products to be temporarily exempted from additional tariffs; tariffs can be refunded for the eligible products that have already been taxed. The USTR also announces that they will hold a public hearing on June 17, 2019 on the possibility of imposing 25 percent tariffs on a further US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports, including cellphones and laptops.
Day 310: May 10, 2019 – US increases tariff from 10 percent to 25 percent
US increases tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods (List 3) from 10 percent to 25 percent, as the US and China fail to reach a deal following the end of the first day of the eleventh round of high-level trade talks. The tariff increase will be effective from May 10, 2019 at 12:01 am (EST), with goods leaving from China to the US before midnight still taxed at the previous 10 percent rate. (See full notice here). In response, China’s Ministry of Commerce releases a statement announcing that it “deeply regrets” the tariffs and that “necessary countermeasures” will be taken.
Day 305: May 5, 2019 – Trump threatens to raise tariffs on China
Trump says that the US will increase tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent, effective Friday, May 10. The tariffs would apply to the products included on List 3, which have been subject to 10 percent tariffs since September 24, 2018. The tariffs on List 3 were initially scheduled to increase to 25 percent on January 1, 2019, until the US and China agreed to delay the increase until March 1, 2019 and then later agreed to delay them indefinitely.
Trump also says that he would come up with new tariffs of 25 percent on an additional US$325 billion worth of Chinese goods, which would cover essentially all remaining Chinese products. Trump says that the tariff increase is being done because the Chinese side is attempting to “renegotiate” the trade deal and is backsliding on commitments.
Day 299-300: April 30-May 1, 2019 – US and China hold trade talks in Beijing
US and Chinese negotiators continue trade talks in Beijing on Tuesday, April 30 and Wednesday, May 1. Mnuchin calls the talks “productive” and confirms that the two sides will continue negotiations in Washington the next week.
Day 279: April 10, 2019 – US and China agree to establish trade deal enforcement offices
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says that the US and China have agreed to establish “enforcement offices” to monitor the enforcement of the trade deal, which has yet to be finalized. According to media reports, other issues relating to enforcement have yet to be agreed upon, such as whether the US will have the right to unilaterally re-implement tariffs if China is deemed to have reneged on its commitments.
Day 272-274: April 3-5, 2019 – US and China hold trade talks in Washington
US and Chinese negotiators continue trade talks in Washington from Wednesday, April 3 to Friday, April 5, a week after holding negotiations in Beijing. On Thursday, April 4, Trump meets with Liu He, and says that the two sides will know “over the next four weeks” whether they can strike a deal. US and Chinese negotiators agree to continue talks the following week.
Day 270: April 1, 2019 – China bans all types of fentanyl
China announces that it will ban all variants of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, effective May 1, 2019, in what is considered a concession to the US amid trade talks. China previously banned some strains of fentanyl, but only banned other strains on a case-by-case basis rather than as a class of drug. Because of the opioid crisis in the US, China’s treatment of fentanyl production and distribution had been a source of tension in bilateral relations.
Day 269: March 31, 2019 – China extends the suspension of additional tariffs on US autos and auto parts
China extends the suspension of additional tariffs on US autos and auto parts, which were set to go back into force on April 1, 2019. China previously placed retaliatory tariffs of 25 percent on such products in reaction to US tariffs, but suspended them in December 2018, effective January 1 to April 1, 2019. The announcement did not state when the suspension would expire. US autos are still subject to China’s standard tariff rate of 15 percent.
Day 266-267: March 28-29, 2019 – US and China hold trade talks in Beijing after one month break
US and Chinese negotiators resume trade talks in Beijing on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29 after not meeting face-to-face for nearly one month. The month-long break was partly due to the Two Sessions meetings held in early March, which were China’s biggest political meetings of the year. Officials call the trade talks constructive, with an enforcement mechanism to monitor China’s commitment to trade concessions reportedly a sticking point.
Day 231-234: February 21-24, 2019 – US and China hold trade talks in Washington; Trump extends tariff deadline
On Thursday, February 21, US and Chinese negotiators resume trade talks in Washington. The day after, on Friday, February 22, Trump meets with Liu He in front of the media, expressing optimism about a trade deal. On Sunday, February 24, Trump announces that he will extend the March 1 trade deal truce deadline, citing progress in trade talks. Trump does not give a concrete date for a new deadline, but expresses hope that Xi will visit Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in March to finalize a trade deal.
Day 221-225: February 11-15, 2019 – US and China hold trade talks in Beijing
The US and China hold trade talks in Beijing. On Friday, February 15, Xi meets with the top negotiators from the US, in what is widely interpreted as a goodwill gesture. At the end of negotiations, the US and China continue to have differences, but agree to keep talking in Washington the following week.
Day 217: February 7, 2019 – Trump says he will not meet with Xi before trade deal deadline
Trump says that he will not meet with Xi in-person before the tariff ceasefire expires on March 1, 2019. Previously, on January 31, Trump said that he would meet with Xi in-person in February.
Day 209-210: January 30-31, 2019 – US and China hold 2-day trade talks in Washington D.C.
The US and China hold in-person talks in Washington D.C., with Liu He leading China’s trade delegation. During the negotiations, China offers to buy five million tons of US soybeans. Trump announces that he will meet with Xi in-person in February.
Day 201: January 22, 2019 – US cancels preparatory talks with China
The US White House reportedly cancel a trade planning meeting with two Chinese vice ministers ahead of trade talks to be held in Washington D.C. US officials cited disagreements over the enforcement of IP rules as the reason for the cancellation.
Day 186-188: January 7-9, 2019 – US and China engage in 3-day trade talks in Beijing
On January 7, official delegations from US and China began trade talks, which were held in Beijing – the first face-to-face meeting since agreeing to a 90-day truce, which ends March 1.Originally scheduled to take place over two days, the discussions extended a day further after many issues remained unresolved. China’s top economic adviser Liu He also made a surprise appearance at the talks, which were intended to be at a vice-ministerial level only. The discussions were divided into two areas – ‘trade issues’, which included trade imbalances in certain sectors and ‘structural issues’, such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection, and non-tariff barriers.
After the talks, China’s Commerce Ministry issued a statement that the talks were “extensive and established a foundation for the resolution of each other’s concerns.” The USTR issued a statement announcing China’s pledge to purchase a “substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the US”, but noted that several outstanding issues remain. The official statement can be found here. Both sides have agreed to continue to keep in close contact.
Day 162: December 14, 2018 – China to temporarily lower tariffs on US autos; resumes buying US soybean exports
China’s Ministry of Finance announces that it will temporarily remove additional 25 percent tariffs on US autos and five percent tariffs on certain US auto parts for three months, beginning on January 1, 2019. During this period, US auto imports will be subject to China’s standard 15 percent tariff rate on foreign autos. The suspension of these tariffs will affect 144 auto products as well as 67 auto-parts and marks the first concrete concession since the 90-day trade war truce made at the G20 Buenos Aires Leaders’ Summit. The official announcement can be found here. China also resumes its purchase of US-soybeans, with reports showing that a large purchase of 1.5 million tons of beans was made. In July 2018, China stopped purchasing US-produced soybeans in retaliation to US-tariffs on Chinese imports, marking the beginnings of the trade war as we know it.
Day 150: December 2, 2018 – US and China agree to temporary truce
The US and China agree to a temporary truce to de-escalate trade tensions, following a working dinner at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, 2018. According to the agreement, both the US and China will refrain from increasing tariffs or imposing new tariffs for 90 days (until March 1, 2019), as the two sides work towards a larger trade deal. More specifically, the US will refrain from increasing the tariffs described in List 3 that were slated to increase from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1, 2019, and will not impose previously threatened tariffs on an additional US$267 billion worth of Chinese goods.
For its part, China will purchase more US products – especially agricultural and energy products – and will crack down on the production and distribution of Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid produced primarily in China. The official US statement can be found here. The official Chinese statement can be found here.
Day 137: November 19, 2018 – US releases list of proposed export controls on emerging technologies
The US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) publishes proposed export control rules on emerging technologies for public comment. According to the proposed rules, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and quantum computing could be subject to export controls because they are dual-use technologies that could be used for military purposes. The rules do not specify China, but are widely considered by observers to be related to US efforts to prevent China from acquiring sensitive technologies.
Day 127: November 9, 2018 – US and China resume trade talks
The US and China reportedly resume trade talks, via a phone call between US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. According to the report, the two sides discussed a framework for a trade deal, or at least a “ceasefire” to reduce tensions.
Day 117: October 30, 2018 – US reportedly prepared to announce tariffs on remaining Chinese products
The US is reportedly prepared to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese products by early December if talks between Trump and Xi at the G20 in Argentina are not successful. Based off trade figures from 2017, that would mean new tariffs on about US$257 worth of Chinese goods. If announced in early December, the tariffs would likely take effect in February 2019.
Day 112: October 25, 2018 – US and China officials resume contact
US and China working-level officials reportedly resume contact after weeks of silence. The officials are reportedly preparing for Trump and Xi to meet on the sidelines of November’s G20 meetings in Argentina.
Day 81: September 24, 2018 – US and China implement third round of tariffs US
The US implements tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods (List 3), bringing the total amount to US$250 billion. The tariffs carry an initial rate of 10 percent, and will be increased to 25 percent by January 1, 2019. The full and finalized List 3 can be found here. CN: China responds to US tariffs by implementing tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US goods (List 3). List 3, originally published on August 3, can be found here, but with updated tariff rates of either five percent or 10 percent, as announced here. China also released a White Paper, laying out the government’s official position on the US-China trade relationship. The White Paper can be accessed here.
Day 79: September 22, 2018 – China cancels trade talks with US
China cancels trade talks planned with the US ahead of the impending implementation of US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods (List 3).
Day 75: September 18, 2018 – China announces retaliation for US tariffs
China announces that it will implement tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US goods (List 3) after the latest round of tariffs from the US (worth US$200 billion) go into effect on September 24.
Day 74: September 17, 2018 – US finalizes tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods
The USTR announces the finalized list of tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods (List 3). The US says that the tariffs will go into effect on September 24 at an initial rate of 10 percent, to be increased to 25 percent by January 1, 2019. The full and finalized List 3 can be found here.
Day 69: September 12, 2018 – US invites China to re-open negotiations
The White House’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, says that the US has invited China to restart trade negotiations before tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods (List 3) go into effect.
Day 64: September 7, 2018 – Trump threatens new tariffs
After the public comment period for List 3 of US tariffs on Chinese products ended on September 6, 2018, Trump threatens to impose tariffs on US$267 billion more. That would bring the total amount of tariffs threatened or imposed by the US on China to US$517 billion, accounting for essentially all Chinese exports to the US. In 2017, the US imported US$505 billion worth of products from China.
Day 49: August 23, 2018 – US and China implement second round of tariffs, China files second WTO complaint US
US implements a 25 percent tariff on 279 goods originating from China (worth US$16 billion). Goods targeted include: semiconductors, chemicals, plastics, motorbikes and electric scooters. The full and finalized List 2 can be found here.
CN: China implements retaliatory 25 percent tariffs on 333 goods originating from the US (worth US$16 billion), including commodities such as: coal, copper scrap, fuel, buses and medical equipment. The full and finalized List 2 can be found here. China also files a new WTO complaint against the United States’ Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods issued on August 23 under List 2 (25 percent tariffs on US$16 billion).
Day 48-49: August 22-23, 2018 – US-China dialogue
US and Chinese mid-level representatives meet for the first time since early in the trade war. US Treasury Under Secretary David Malpass and Chinese Commerce Vice Minister Wang Shouwen met in Washington DC to discuss ways to resolve the deepening trade conflict and escalating tariffs. Discussions end with no major breakthroughs.
Day 40 : August 14, 2018 – China files WTO claim against US
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce announces that a formal case has been lodged at the WTO against the US for its tariffs on solar panels, alleging that US tariffs have damaged China’s trade interests.
Day 33: August 7, 2018 – Second round of tariffs finalized and released US
US releases a revised version of tariffs on a final list of US$16 billion worth of imports from China (List 2). Set to take effect August 23, List 2 announces that the US$16 billion of imports will now be subject to a 25 percent tariff rather than previously announced 10 percent. Five of the 284 items in the original list published on June 15 were removed, these being: alginic acid, splitting machines, containers, floating docks, and microtomes (collectively worth US$400 million in 2017). CN: China’s Ministry of Commerce announces a reciprocal 25 percent additional tariff on US$16 billion of US exports to China, effective August 23, 2018. The tentative List 2 can be found here.
Day 29: August 3, 2018 – China announces second round of tariffs on US products
In response to potential US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of products announced on August 1, 2018 (List 3), China’s Ministry of Commerce proposes a range of additional tariffs on 5,207 products originating from the US (worth US$60 billion), including the following:
- 25 percent on 2,493 products (agricultural, products, foods, textiles and products, chemicals, metal products, machinery);
- 20 percent on 1,078 products (foods, paperboard, chemicals works of art);
- 10 percent on 974 products (agricultural products, chemicals, glassware); and
- 5 percent on 662 products (chemicals, machinery, medical equipment).
The tentative List 3 can be found here.
Day 28: August 2, 2018 – US tariffs revisions (US$200 billion)
The USTR, at the direction of Trump, considers a 25 percent tariff rather than a 10 percent one on List 3, which was originally announced on July 10, 2018. The list targets approximately US$200 billion worth of goods and includes categories such as: consumer products, chemical and construction materials, textiles, tools, food and agricultural products, commercial electronic equipment and vehicle/automotive parts. The US Department of Commerce also adds 44 Chinese entities to its export control list that pose a “significant risk” to US national security.
Day 5: July 10, 2018 – US releases second tariff list US
The USTR releases a third list of tariffs (List 3) of over 6,000 commodities originating in China (worth US$200 billion), which will be subject to a 10 percent tariff.
Day 1: July 6, 2018 – US implements first China-specific tariffs US
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) begins collecting a 25 percent tariff on 818 imported Chinese products (List 1) valued at US$34 billion – giving effect to the first round of tariffs, which were revised and announced on June 15, 2018.Meanwhile, the second round of tariffs discussed in List 2 is under review, which proposes implementing a 25 percent tariff on 284 Chinese products (worth US$16 billion). Commodities targeted in this round of tariffs include: iron or steel products, electrical machinery, railway products, instruments and apparatus. CN: China takes retaliatory measures by imposing a 25 percent tariff on 545 goods originating from the US (worth US$34 billion), including agricultural products, automobiles and aquatic products. The full and finalized List 1 can be found here.
Events leading up to the US-China trade war
June 16, 2018: 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).
June 15, 2018: 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.
June 7, 2018: US and ZTE agree to deal that will allow ZTE to resume business.
June 4-5, 2018: Two days of trade talks between US and China held in Beijing.
May 18, 2018: China’s Commerce Ministry announces that it will stop tariffs on US sorghum at negotiations.
May 13, 2018: Trump promises to help ZTE in a tweet.
May 3-7, 2018: 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.
April 17, 2018: China announces antidumping duties of 178.6 percent on imports of sorghum from the US.
April 16, 2018: 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.
April 4, 2018: 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).
April 3, 2018: 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).
April 2, 2018: China imposes tariffs (ranging 15-25 percent) on 128 products (worth US$3 billion) including fruit, wine, seamless steel pipes, pork and recycled aluminium in retaliation to the US’ steel and aluminium tariffs.
March 23, 2018: US imposes a 25 percent tariff on all steel imports (except from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and South Korea) and a 10 percent tariff on all aluminium imports (except from Argentina and Australia).
March 22, 2018: 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).
February 7, 2018: 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).
November 8-10, 2017: Trump pays a “state visit plus” to China, where relations were considered to have warmed.
August 18, 2017: The USTR initiates an investigation into certain acts, policies and practices of the Chinese government relating to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.
May 22, 2017: 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.
April 28, 2017: The USTR is authorized to investigate whether steel/aluminium imports pose a threat to national security.
April 6-7, 2017: 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.
May 2, 2016: 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.
September 21, 2011: 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.