Latest $200bn US tariff list includes chemicals

19 July 2018 17:26 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Several chemicals are included in the $200bn worth of tariffs that the US may impose on Chinese imports in the latest escalation of the trade war between the two countries. The US will hold hearings on 20-23 August before imposing a 10% duty on the items in the list.

The list is massive, exceeding 6,000 products It includes several industrial chemicals such as olefins, aromatics, alcohols, acetyls, acrylics, anhydrides, glycols and glycol ethers.

Nitrogen fertilizers and surfactants are included as well as caustic soda, titanium dioxide (TiO2), elastomers and certain polyolefins.

For many products like ethane, none are imported by the US. Still, the inclusion of so many chemical products on the US list shows that the sector is becoming increasingly exposed to the trade war.

The US has already imposed 25% tariffs on several Chinese products, most of which are machines and industrial tools. China responded with its own set of retaliatory tariffs on US products, which targets soybeans and other agricultural goods.

The US could move forward on a second set of tariffs on $16bn worth of goods, many of which are polyolefins and other polymers. China responded with its own second set of tariffs that also targets several polymers.

The latest tariffs from the US would be on top of all of the other duties that have been adopted or imposed.

“The Administration’s announcement of a potential 10% tariff on $200bn of additional imports from China, including a significant amount of chemicals, is a stunning and unfortunate development for US manufacturers and consumers. Unilateral actions that alienate long-standing US allies and close off the US market to the rest of the world are not a recipe for economic growth and prosperity and are very unlikely to change China’s unfair practices,” said the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which also urged the US administration to “create a strong, multilateral coalition to bring an end to this unnecessary trade war”.

China on 16 July filed a complaint against the US at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the decision to place tariffs on an additional $200bn of exports to the country.

The statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) comes less than a week after the US announced plans to levy a 10% tax rate against a raft of Chinese exports to the US, the latest tranche of punitive trade charges placed on the country.

Authorities at MOFCOM expressed shock last week at the new sanctions, which the ministry described in a statement as “trade bullying”.

The latest measures follow the imposition of 25% tariffs on $34bn worth of Chinese imports to the US, which prompted a similar response from China. Another round of US 25% tariffs on $16bn in Chinese imports is pending, with Chinese retaliatory tariffs of 25% on $16bn of US imports waiting in the wings.

But China has limited options available to respond to the scale of punitive tariffs the US may impose, according to analysts, which could stretch to cover $500bn of exports.

  • Click here to see the list of chemicals in the latest proposed $200bn of US tariffs against China

  • Click here to view related stories and content on the US-China trade war landing page

Additional contribution by Joseph Chang

By Al Greenwood