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China Has Yet To Retaliate For Trump's Tariff Hike


We have been waiting for China to make its move, and now it has happened. China said this morning that it's going to raise tariffs on U.S. goods starting next month. This, of course, is following the Trump administration's decision to impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods imported into the United States. Let's talk this through with NPR's Rob Schmitz, who joins us from Shanghai. Hi, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what exactly are we hearing from the Chinese this morning?

SCHMITZ: Well, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce just imposed - these are not new tariffs, I should say. They're - they are a rise in tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports into China. And it really runs the gamut of products that the U.S. exports to China. There are nearly 5,000 products that will see a rise in tariffs. And these original tariffs were actually imposed as retaliation to tariffs that the Trump administration placed on Chinese imports into the United States back in September.

GREENE: OK. So is this - feel like the normal tit for tat that we've been seeing during the course of this whole trade conflict between the two countries?

SCHMITZ: Sort of because one of the problems here for China and Beijing was that they were running out of products to impose tariffs on. They had run out back in September. And so when Trump decided to rise - to raise the tariffs this last Friday on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports into the U.S., China was sort of - I think that the government was a bit uneasy about what to do next.

They were worried, No. 1, about, OK, we've run out of products to put tariffs on. And No. 2 also I think that there was a debate about, what should we do? Can we hurt the U.S. in other ways? But they've basically decided to do the same thing that the Trump administration has done, which was to rise the - raise the level of tariffs and put it into higher terms and to - basically turning it from 10% to around 20% to 25%.

GREENE: Because - I mean, earlier this morning and over the course of the last days, there's been speculation, like, why isn't China doing anything like they normally do? It sounds like...

SCHMITZ: (Laughter) Right.

GREENE: ...Now it's - it was just a matter of deliberating and figuring out exactly, you know, some of the specifics.

SCHMITZ: Yeah. I think it was weighing options. It was looking at different ways that it could hurt the United States. But, you know, with these - this - these new levels of tariffs that China is placing on the U.S., I mean, we're looking at, you know, agricultural products like vegetables, fruits. We're looking at meats like lamb and beef. We're looking at chemicals, liquor and thousands of other products that the U.S. exports to China.

GREENE: So what does this - I mean, how do we characterize the current trade talks at this moment? Are they still going on? Is there hope for some sort of deal, or is this the way things are just going to keep going?

SCHMITZ: Well, China's lead negotiator, Liu He, told China's media that the U.S. and China will hold the next round of talks in Beijing, but he didn't really specify when. Steve Mnuchin also was asked this question apparently today, and he said he wasn't sure when they were going to meet next.

President Trump has taken to Twitter today to remind people that he raised tariffs on Friday because China backtracked on the trade agreement originally. He's also made more threats, saying that he's asked his staff to begin the paperwork on yet another round of tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of basically everything else that China sells to the U.S.

GREENE: All right, so maybe more to come. NPR's Rob Schmitz for us this morning in Shanghai. Rob, thanks so much.

SCHMITZ: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.