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Sept. 1, 2019, 4:15 p.m. EDT

Latest tariff hikes kick in, and U.S. consumers will likely see higher prices

Trump says trade talks with China still set for September

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By Associated Press


Reuters
Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, China.

WASHINGTON — The United States and China on Sunday put in place their latest tariff increases on each other’s goods, potentially raising prices Americans pay for some clothes, shoes, sporting goods and other consumer items before the holiday shopping season.

President Donald Trump said U.S.-China trade talks were still on for September. “We’ll see what happens,” he told reporters as he returned to the White House from the Camp David presidential retreat. “But we can’t allow China to rip us off anymore as a country.”

The 15% U.S. taxes apply to about $112 billion of Chinese imports. All told, more than two-thirds of the consumer goods the United States imports from China now face higher taxes. The administration had largely avoided hitting consumer items in its earlier rounds of tariff increases.

But with prices of many retail goods now likely to rise, the Trump administration’s move threatens the U.S. economy’s main driver: consumer spending. As businesses pull back on investment spending and exports slow in the face of weak global growth, American shoppers have been a key bright spot for the economy.

“We have got a great economy,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. “But I do think that the uncertainty caused by volatile tariff situation and this developing trade war could jeopardize that strength, and that growth, and that is I think that’s a legitimate concern,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

As a result of Trump’s higher tariffs, many U.S. companies have warned that they will be forced to pass on to their customers the higher prices they will pay on Chinese imports. Some businesses, though, may decide in the end to absorb the higher costs rather than raise prices for their customers.

In China, authorities began charging higher duties on American imports at midday Sunday, according to employees who answered the phone at customs offices in Beijing and the southern port of Guangzhou. They declined to give their names.

Tariffs of 10% and 5% apply to items ranging from frozen sweet corn and pork liver to marble and bicycle tires, the government announced earlier.

After Sunday’s move, 87% of textiles and clothing the United States buys from China and 52% of shoes will be subject to import taxes.

On Dec. 15, the Trump administration is scheduled to impose a second round of 15% tariffs — this time on roughly $160 billion of imports. If those duties take effect, virtually all goods imported from China will be covered.

The Chinese government has released a list of American imports targeted for penalties on Dec. 15 if the U.S. tariff hikes take effect. In total, Beijing says Sunday’s penalties and the planned December increases will apply to $75 billion of American goods.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a war over U.S. complaints that China steals U.S. trade secrets and unfairly subsidizes its own companies in its drive to develop global competitors in such high-tech industries as artificial intelligence and electric cars.

“I give the president credit for challenging China on some of its really egregious behavior” on intellectual property and technology transfers, for example, Toomey said. He said he hopes that’s what Trump’s focus is, “not just the fact that Chinese clothing and shoes are popular among consumers. That’s not the problem.”

If China changes its behavior “in a meaningful way in that area ... then we will have ended up in a better place. That’s what I’m hoping for. But let’s be honest. In the meantime, we’re doing damage. It’s a double-edged sword,” he said.

To try to force Beijing to reform its trade practices, the Trump administration has imposed import taxes on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports, and China has retaliated with tariffs on U.S. exports.

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