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China warns of 'counterattack' as U.S. tariffs take effect

07 July 2018

Three months of rhetoric just became reality.

The government said previously it would hit more than 500 U.S. export items - including cars and major agricultural goods such as soybeans and meat - worth the same as the Chinese products targeted by the United States.

"The damage potentially may have already been done with some of these downturns, with some of these stocks, and now is a good time to make a few value plays under the assumption that these trade tariffs might not actually come to fruition", Jasper Reimers, market analyst at Vertex Capital Group, said.

"We do not want to fight it, but in order to safeguard the interests of the country and the people, we have no choice but to fight", said China´s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng.

Asia is bracing for the opening salvo in a tit-for-tat trade battle, with the USA imposing 25 percent tariffs on $US34b ($NZ50b) of Chinese goods today.

MSCI's measure of world equities markets rose 0.8 percent to the highest level since June 22 while Asian stocks climbed almost half a percent, led by a rebound in Chinese shares.

China rejected "threats and blackmail" ahead of a threatened US tariff hike, striking a defiant stance Thursday in a dispute companies worry could flare into a full-blown trade war and chill the global economy. "The countdown is on as to what Trump will do next".

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International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has already sounded the alarm about the cycle of retaliation, saying it would only create "losers on both sides". Beijing said it would not hesitate to match those tariffs either. Trump has threatened to target an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

But economists also say the trade war comes as the period of synchronized expansion among the world´s largest economies, which is bolstering demand for U.S. goods and services, may be starting to run out of steam, raising the risks that tariffs could harm growth. "There are lots of things they could do to make life hard for USA businesses operating in China that would be detrimental to us".

"Although uncertainties have clearly increased this year and pose downside risks to growth, the latest batch of timely activity indicators suggests that in the shorter term the global economy is resilient to these worries", Ben May, director of global macro research at Oxford Economics in London, said in a report on Thursday.

US carmaker Ford Motor Co (F.N) said on Thursday it has no plans to hike retail prices of its imported Ford and Lincoln models in China, despite the steep additional tariffs on imported USA vehicles set to come into play on Friday.

Shaun Rein, managing director at the China Market Research Group in Shanghai, said the Chinese government's next play could be to stoke anti-American sentiments among consumers - similar to the boycotts it ordered a year ago on South Korea's Lotte Group, which caused dozens of the company's convenience stores to shutter.

"If I was Starbucks or Apple", he said, "I would be scared right now".

The Trump administration accuses China of building its emerging industrial dominance by "stealing the crown jewels" of American technological know-how through cyber-theft, forced transfers of intellectual property, state-sponsored corporate acquisitions and other underhand practices.

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Trump discussed the trade war today with journalists who flew with him to Montana for a campaign rally.

Chinese officials, however, are projecting studied confidence, asserting the Asian nation is better equipped to withstand the turbulence.

The dispute has roiled financial markets including stocks, currencies and the global trade of commodities from soybeans to coal in recent weeks.

"They're holding everything ... because there's uncertainty", he said.

After months of speculation as to whether or not it would occur, the trade war between the United States and China is now underway in earnest.

While Chinese state media have slammed Trump's trade policies and on Friday likened his administration to a "gang of hoodlums", the simmering conflict has gained little traction on China's tightly controlled social media, not cracking the 50 top-searched topics on the Twitter-like Weibo platform. "China will be prepared to follow suit".

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"They have a sizeable feed industry that's dependent on soybeans, the largest swine herd in the world, the largest global aquaculture industry, and are rapidly modernizing their poultry, egg, dairy, and beef industries", said American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer.

China warns of 'counterattack' as U.S. tariffs take effect