China won't act first as tariff tit-for-tat deadline looms

China will "absolutely not" fire the first shot in a trade war with the United States, its finance ministry said on Wednesday.
Washington has said it will implement tariffs on US$34 billion (S$46 billion) of Chinese imports and Beijing had vowed to retaliate in kind on the same day.
Washington has said it will implement tariffs on US$34 billion (S$46 billion) of Chinese imports and Beijing had vowed to retaliate in kind on the same day. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • China will ''absolutely not'' fire the first shot in a trade war with the United States and will not be the first to levy tariffs, its Finance Ministry said yesterday.

Washington has said it will implement tariffs on US$34 billion (S$46 billion) of Chinese imports tomorrow, and Beijing had vowed to retaliate in kind on the same day.

A person with knowledge of the plan earlier said China's threatened tariffs on US$34 billion of US goods would take effect from the beginning of the day tomorrow.

Given the 12-hour time difference, that would have put its implementation ahead of Washington's. Other media outlets carried similar reports.

But the ministry issued a brief clarification in response.

''The Chinese government's position has been stated many times.

We absolutely will not fire the first shot, and will not implement tariff measures ahead of the United States doing so,'' it said, without elaborating.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to escalate the trade conflict with tariffs on as much as US$400 billion in Chinese goods if Beijing retaliates against the US tariffs when they take effect tomorrow.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'China won't act first as tariff tit-for-tat deadline looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe