US companies in China say tariffs are hurting: Survey

Shipping containers are seen at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, on Sept 8, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - The majority of American companies in China say they are hurting from the escalating US-China trade spat, reporting increased costs, lower profits and stepped up scrutiny, a survey showed on Thursday (Sept 13).

The survey, carried out by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, polled more than 430 US companies operating in the country, with most in the manufacturing sector.

Donald Trump's first round of tariffs, hitting $50 billion in Chinese goods and drawing dollar-for-dollar retaliation from Beijing, negatively impacted 60 per cent of firms, with the US president's looming US$200-billion round expected to hurt three-quarters, according to the poll.

Officials in Washington reportedly proposed a fresh round of trade talks with Beijing before those tariffs kick in, according to US media reports Wednesday.

The White House believes China will wave the white flag after the next round of tariffs on US$200 billion in goods, said William Zarit, the chamber's chairman.

"But that scenario risks underestimating China's capability to continue meeting fire with fire," he said.

US companies are particularly worried about the "qualitative measures" Beijing has threatened to take as it becomes unable to respond dollar-for-dollar to the next wave of tariffs -- goods imports last year from the US totalled only US$130 billion.

A majority of firms say they are already feeling Beijing's wrath, reporting increased inspections and regulatory scrutiny as well as slower customs clearance.

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