US retailers and global financial markets on Tuesday got an early Christmas present as US President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it is delaying tariffs on key consumer electronic goods imported from China.
News that top US and Chinese trade officials spoke by telephone early in the day offered further signs of a possible letup in the trade dispute that had been escalating in the past few weeks.
Trump said that conversation was “very productive” and that he agreed to delay imposing tariffs on some goods to protect consumers going into the holiday shopping season — even while continuing to insist that Americans are not paying for the tariffs.
The news provided some much-needed respite for investors, who have come under intense pressure from a range of issues including concerns about the global economy, Hong Kong’s protests, the trade dispute and Brexit.
Wall Street’s three main indices surged on the announcement, with the tech-rich NASDAQ Composite up 2 percent, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 more than 1 percent higher.
The US gains filtered through to Asia, where Taipei added 0.6 percent, Tokyo ended 1 percent higher, Singapore gained 0.1 percent, Seoul added 0.7 percent and Sydney put on 0.4 percent. There were also gains in Mumbai, Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok, although Wellington dipped.
The latest round of tariffs on US$300 billion in Chinese goods, due to take effect on Sept. 1, meant all Chinese imports into the US would be subject to additional duties.
However, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said that it is delaying until Dec. 15 imposition of new 10 percent tariffs on Chinese-made cellphones, laptops, computer monitors, video game consoles and some toys, footwear and clothing.
“We’re doing this for Christmas season just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on US customers, but so far they have had really none,” Trump told reporters.
An odd assortment of goods would benefit from the reprieve, including baby furniture, diapers and men’s suits, as well as frozen fish, cigar holders, sugar beets, pesticides, bedding and school supplies.
In addition, the USTR said “certain products are being removed from the tariff list based on health, safety, national security and other factors and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent.”
About 25 product lines that would be exempted from any new tariffs include car seats, shipping containers and cranes for ports as well as Bibles and other religious literature.
The National Retail Federation cheered the decision, but said that uncertainty continues, and tariffs “will result in higher costs for American families and slow the US economy.”
The business group urged Trump to join forces with allies to deal with China’s “unfair trade practices.”
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴) and has another call planned in two weeks, a USTR official told reporters.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin also participated in the call, officials said.
US and Chinese negotiators late last month met in Shanghai for the first time since talks collapsed in May, and the sides are due to hold another round of meetings in Washington next month.
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