Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trump backs off on some new China tariffs until December

The Trump administration announced today that it will delay imposing new tariffs on certain Chinese goods—such as laptops, cellphones, video game consoles, and some clothes and shoes—until Dec. 15, instead of the original start date of Sept. 1. "The announcement, which came from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, likely ensures that Apple products and other major consumer goods would be shielded from the import tax until at least December, potentially keeping costs on these products down during the holiday shopping season," Damian Paletta and Heather Long report for The Washington Post.

Trump announced the new round of tariffs Aug.1, saying he would impose 10% levies on $300 billion in Chinese goods because China hadn't followed through on a promise to buy more American farm products. In response to the new tariff announcement, China halted all U.S. ag purchases.

The USTR said the tariffs will still go into effect in September on other items, but didn't fully explain why some items were exempted. "But it said tariffs on other items would be waived completely 'based on health, safety, national security and other factors,'" Paletta and Long report.

It's likely that economic fears influenced the decision; Trump's recent tariff threat "spooked investors and many lawmakers, and it has led to a steady slide in the stock market in the past two weeks," Paletta and Long report. Former Trump Treasury Department official Steve Pavlick, now head of policy at Renaissance Macro Research, told the Post: "I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you see this right before Christmas. They are trying to minimize the impact."

"Many businesses had worried that higher tariffs on consumer goods ahead of the Christmas shopping season could severely damage the economy at a time when some are warning that the risk of a recession next year has increased," Paletta and Long report. "The announcement moved the stock market sharply higher. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed close to 500 points, or nearly 2 percent, on the news. The stock prices of Apple, Best Buy, Mattel and Macy’s were among those that rallied on the announcement."

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