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The trade war is on: A timeline

cbies/ThinkstockPhotos Pile of Trade War Buttons With US Flag, 3d illustration
Opening salvo was on Jan. 22, 2018, when U.S. imposed tariffs on washing machine and solar cell imports.

by Bloomberg News

The trade dispute between the U.S. and China continues. 

Chinese officials have announced retaliation following U.S. President Donald Trump’s authorization of a new round of tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods, a move that brought the total amount targeted by the U.S. in recent months to $250 billion.

Here’s a timeline of major developments this year -- in reverse chronological order -- and also the main dates of coming events.

  • 9/18/2018 — China announces retaliation on $60 billion of U.S. goods to become effective simultaneously with the U.S. duties.
  • 9/17/2018 — U.S. announces 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese exports effective Sept. 24 until the end of 2018, to rise to 25% afterward. Smart watches and a few other items from the preliminary list are exempted.
  • 9/6/2018 — End of comment period for tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports.  China’s retaliation might begin immediately after the U.S. action.
  • 8/23/2018 — Tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese imports to begin. Chinese retaliation of tariffs on $16 billion of U.S. exports to begin.
  • 8/03/2018 — China announces a list of $60 billion worth of U.S. imports it plans to apply tariffs on should the Trump administration follow through with higher tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
  • 8/02/2018 — U.S.Trade Representative confirms that President Trump is considering increasing proposed tariff on $200 billion of Chinese imports to  25% from 10%. 
  • 7/31/2018 — China, US.  reported to be trying to restart trade talks. 
  • 7/26/2018 — Qualcomm Inc. decides to scrap a $44 billion takeover of NXP Semiconductors NV, because China didn’t sign off as time expired.
  • 7/20/2018 — Trump says he’s "ready to go" with tariffs on $500 billion of Chinese imports. 7/11/2018 The USTR releases a list of $200 billion of Chinese goods it plans to impose an extra 10% tariffs on.
  • 7/6/2018 — Tariffs on $34 billion of imports  begin.
  • 7/6/2018 — ZTE Corp. receives limited authorization to resume business.
  • 7/3/2018  — U.S. computer chip company  Micron Technology Inc.  ordered to halt sales in China.  6/27/2018 Trump agrees to less aggressive option to limit Chinese investment in the U.S. 
  • 6/21/2018 — President Xi Jinping says China will hit back if struck,  according to the Wall Street Journal, and  criticizes U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling Chinese claims of economic openness “a joke.”
  • 6/20/2018 — White House releases report accusing China of threatening U.S. interests. 6/19/2018 Trump says U.S. looking to put tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese exports, with another $200 billion after that if China retaliates. 
  • 6/18/2018 — Pompeo calls Chinese claims of economic openness “a joke.”
  • 6/15/2018 — U.S. announces tariffs on $50 billion of imports from China, with Trump threatening more if China retaliates. China responds in kind. 
  • 6/15/2018 — Qualcomm Inc.’s takeover of NXP Semiconductors NV is  said to be approved by Chinese regulators, although a later report contradicts this.
  • 6/15/2018  — Pompeo meets Xi, discussing trade and security.
  • 6/7/2018 — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announces deal allowing ZTE to get back into business. 
  • 6/6/2018 — China said to offer to buy $25 billion more of U.S. goods in 2018.
  • 6/3/2018 — China says previous offers and deals are off if tariffs imposed.
  • 6/2-4/2018 — Wilbur Ross, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He meet in Beijing for talks.
  • 5/30/2018 — China announces cuts to tariffs on some consumer goods, to start July 1. 
  • 5/29/2018 — U.S. announces plan to limit some visas for Chinese citizens to protect intellectual property.
  • 5/29/2018 — U.S. announces that it’s moving ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of imports and a plan to curb investment in sensitive technology.
  • 5/29/2018 — China said to be considering buying more U.S. coal to narrow trade deficit. 5/28/2018 At the WTO, U.S.  accuses China of imposing laws that result in the theft of U.S. tech and IP. 
  • 5/28/2018 — China ready to approve Qualcomm/NXP deal if it gets assurances that the U.S. will lift ban on ZTE Corp.
  • 5/28/2018 — U.S.  said to be pressing China to sign long-term import contracts. 
  • 5/25/2018 — U.S. announces a $1.3 billion fine and other punishments for ZTE, but will allow company to resume purchasing from American suppliers.
  • 5/23/2018 — Trump backs away from the previous day’s deal, saying U.S. will "probably have to use a different structure."
  • 5/22/2018 — China will cut import duties on cars to 15% from 25%.
  • 5/22/2018 — Two nations agree on the "broad outline" of a settlement for ZTE dispute, the WSJ reports. China offered to remove tariffs on U.S. farm products as part of the deal.
  • 5/21/2018 — Trump tweets that China will buy "massive amounts of additional farm/agricultural products."
  • 5/20/2018 — Both nations reach an agreement and issue a joint statement.  The U.S. agrees to hold off on tariffs.  China offers to significantly increase purchases of U.S. goods. 
  • 5/18/2018 — China ends anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into sorghum.
  • 5/17/2018 — Talks start in Washington.
  • 5/14/2018 — China is said to restart review of Qualcomm’s proposed NXP deal.
  • 5/13/2018 — Trump tweets that he’s working with Xi to get ZTE "back into business."
  • 5/10/2018 — ZTE ceases major operations in the U.S. 
  • 5/3-4/2018 — Trade talks in Beijing. No agreement is reached, and no statement is released.  U.S. demands a $200 billion cut in trade deficit. China protests over ZTE case, demands end of 301 investigation.
  • 4/28/2018 — China objects to being on U.S. intellectual property watch list.
  • 4/27/2018 — U.S. keeps China on IP priority watch list of nations.
  • 4/26/2018 — Reported that China may cut car import tariffs by half. 
  • 4/26/2018 — Reported that U.S. looking into China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for possible violation of sanctions against Iran.
  • 4/17/2018 — China announces it will collect anti-dumping tariffs on sorghum imports from the U.S., a trade worth about $1 billion in 2017.
  • 4/16/2018 — U.S. penalizes China’s ZTE for violating a previous agreement punishing it for doing business with Iran and North Korea. The company is banned from buying U.S. technology for seven years.
  • 4/10/2018 — Xi promises to open up various sectors including autos and finance.
  • 4/5/2018 — Trump issues statement that says “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” for his initial tariffs, his administration will consider an addition $100 billion in tariffs. 
  • 4/5/2018 — China complains to the World Trade Organization about U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
  • 4/4/2018 — U.S. responds to China’s WTO complaint on the section 301 tariffs, calling it baseless. 4/4/2018 China complains to WTO about the section 301 tariff action by the U.S.
  • 4/4/2018 — China says it will levy an additional 25% tariff on imports of 106 U.S. products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft, in response to proposed American duties on its high-tech goods.
  • 4/3/2018 — The U.S. releases a list dominated by high-tech industrial products as targets for proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of imports. This is aimed at recouping losses from China’s alleged abuse of intellectual property.
  • 4/2/2018 — China says it will start levying tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. imports including fresh fruits, nuts, wine and pork. Early April Liu He tells other officials that trade talks between the two parties broke down after the U.S. demanded that China curtail support for high-technology industries. Beijing had offered to cut the bilateral trade deficit by $50 billion. 
  • 3/27/2018 — U.S. releases Section 301 report on China.
  • 3/23/2018 — China unveils tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. imports in response to steel and aluminum tariffs .
  • 3/23/2018 — U.S. complains to WTO about Chinese protection of IP.
  • 3/22/2018 — U.S. proposes tariffs in response to China’s "unfair trade practices” related to technology transfer, IP, and innovation; says it will complain to WTO and look at restricting investment from China. 
  • 3/9/2018 — Trump signs tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from all nations, including China.
  • 2/4/2018 — China starts a one-year anti-subsidy investigation into sorghum imported from the U.S.
  • 1/22/2018 — U.S. imposes safeguard tariffs on washing machine and solar cell imports. While much of these imports don’t come from China, the statement makes clear that Chinese dominance of the global supply chain was a concern.

Further Reading

Timeline of the dispute from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

U.S. Trade Representative’s press release and report on the Section 301 tariffs on IP.

WTO dispute list.

Campaign speech by Donald Trump from June 2016 detailing much of what has become his international economic policy

U.S. tariff lists: On $34 billion in imports (final) On $16 billion in imports (final) On $200 billion in imports (initial) Translation of all China’s tariff lists (with links to the original Chinese ones)

--With assistance from Matthew Boesler.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: James Mayger in Tokyo at [email protected] ;Xiaoqing Pi in Beijing at [email protected] ;Miao Han in Beijing at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeffrey Black at [email protected] James Mayger, Chris Bourke

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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