It is a gesture of appeasement, in full Sino-American trade war. Donald Trump on Wednesday (September 11th) hailed Beijing's decision to exempt some US goods from punitive tariffs as a "strong gesture" as US and Chinese negotiators resume negotiations in early October to try to end the commercial war.
Anxious to limit the impact of this conflict on its economy, China had earlier announced the cancellation of additional tariffs on 16 categories of products imported from the United States.
Beijing is seeking to ease the pressure on Chinese manufacturers and professionals, who suffer the additional costs of these surcharges.
The exemptions will be effective from September 17, 2019 to September 16, 2020: they range from pesticides to lubricants, to certain pharmaceuticals and fish food, the Chinese government's customs commission announced.Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The raw materials under the pressure of the Sino-US trade war
Punitive tariffs will continue
The measure may also be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill towards the US president even though punitive tariffs will continue to apply to most US-made imports, including soybeans and pork.
"The production line in China is disintegrating," said Wednesday Donald Trump from the White House. This chain, which was "the indestructible, powerful tool they had, is breaking like a toy because companies are leaving [the country], " he added. It is, according to him, the reason for which "China wants to form a commercial agreement" .
Since March 2018, China and the United States have been engaged in a trade war that has resulted in mutual tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of bilateral trade.Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The trade war is escalating between Beijing and Washington
Beijing had begun in May to receive applications for the lifting of the 25% surcharges applied since last year on a series of US imports. The list of exemption of customs duties announced Wednesday is the first to be published since.
Among the 16 categories of products concerned also include more confidential or technical goods, such as alfalfa granules, linear accelerators (used in medicine) or fats (used in mechanics).
"These adjustments are a sign that China is more willing to make progress in the October trade negotiations," commented Barclays Bank analysts in a note.
They also expect the United States to postpone the entry into force of a final salvo of tariffs scheduled for December 15.
In recent weeks, Beijing and Washington ensure maintain dialogue. And they announced that their key negotiators would meet early next month in the US capital for a round of high-level talks, led by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.Article reserved for our subscribers Read also On the backdrop of commercial tensions, globalization summoned to reinvent itself
Slowing global growth
The two sides were on the verge of signing a trade deal in early May when negotiations came to a head, with the Trump administration accusing China of backing off its commitments.
Tensions have since intensified with the entry into force of reciprocal tariffs reinforced by successive waves, the latest of which was on 1 September.
By the end of the year, Donald Trump plans to overtax almost all imports from China: some $ 540 billion based on 2018 imports.
Economists warn of the trade war that slows global growth. The IMF has also recently underlined the impact on the Chinese economy.
Pessimism is also gaining the American companies present in China, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.
A quarter of them say they expect this year to lower their turnover. They were only 6.1% in 2018. And 47% plan to increase their investments in the Asian country against 61.6% last year.
Facing Washington, Beijing has so far tried to support where it hurts: targeting agricultural products and manufactured from US states that voted for Donald Trump.
In the context of new tariffs decided by Washington, China should not rush to lift its surcharges on soybeans, pork and US automobiles. However, she said on Wednesday that other lists of products with exemptions could be announced "in due course" .Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Asian countries try to take advantage of Sino-US trade war