Trump set for China tariff announcement on Thursday, trade war fears grow

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The Trump administration is expected to unveil up to US$60 billion (S$79 billion) in new tariffs on Chinese imports by Friday.

The study comes as many forecasts say the controversial import tariffs would largely hurt downstream sectors of the economy that use raw steel and aluminum to make consumer products such as automobiles and beverage cans.

The investigation undertaken by the United States under the Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act has identified theft from and coercion of USA companies to disclose their intellectual property as well as purchases by Chinese state funds of US companies for their technology knowledge.

News of the tariffs set off alarm bells among USA retailers last week. "But if anyone forces us to fight one, we will neither be scared nor hide", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

"Tomorrow the president will announce the actions he has made a decision to take based on USTR's 301 investigation into China's state-led, market-distorting efforts to force, pressure, and steal USA technologies and intellectual property", the official said.

Financial Times reported that the global row over threatened USA tariffs on steel imports is "bad" for President Donald Trump's efforts to secure a landmark nuclear deal with North Korea.

Talks could commence soon with Brazil, he added, noting that Washington hoped to resolve the issue of exemptions by the end of April.

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The Trump administration claims imported steel and aluminum pose a risk to United States national security.

In 2017, the United States imported 34.6 million metric tons of steel from 85 countries.

"The tiny tiny decline in GDP is a result of these tariffs in the medium term", Jeff Ferry, research director for the Coalition for a Prosperous America, said in a telephone interview.

China accounts for only about 2.5 percent of US steel imports, but Trump administration officials and tariff supporters have argued that Chinese-made steel makes its way to America though other nations. "There is no argument that will justify these measures being taken", he said in an interview. Imports from Canada and Mexico will initially be exempted from the tariffs and the order left the door open for exemptions for other countries in the future.

Expectations of the anti-China tariffs have alarmed dozens of U.S. business groups, who warned on Sunday they would raise prices for consumers, kill jobs and drive down financial markets.

"We continue to expect a swift response from the European Commission implementing safeguard measures, helping to assuage fears over a significant pullback in pricing due to imports", said investment bank Jefferies in a note.

"This looks much more like a President who is excessively eager to apply tariffs than a well-calculated move to defend American interests", said Phil Levy, who was a trade advisor to President George W. Bush.

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