China’s ministry of commerce has announced that following a brief round of public consultation, these duties would be collected with immediate effect.
Products attracting duties include: fresh or chilled boned pig forelegs, pig hind legs cuts, frozen whole and half carcases, frozen pork bones, frozen pork liver and frozen pork chops, with a catch-all notification that other fresh, frozen or cold pork lines could be added. Where tariffs already exist on these products – they will be applied on top of the new 25% duty.
A ministry of commerce statement said: “During the comment period, a large number of people expressed their support for measures and product lists through telephone, email, etc., and agreed that the government should take measures to safeguard the interests of the state and the industry. Some people also suggested increasing measures.”
Repeating earlier claims that the US national security justification for its metal duties was essentially bogus and that the duties were a disguised economic protection measure, the ministry highlighted widespread exemptions to the duties allowed by the US (for the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and others), noting that the tariffs were now “targeted at only a few countries”, notably China. This “seriously violates the principle of non-discrimination as the cornerstone of the multilateral trading system,” said the ministry, and “seriously infringes the interests of the Chinese side.”
The ministry has certainly acted quickly, in global trade procedural terms. It requested formal consultations with the USA on 26 March, within three days of releasing its draft list of duties, and having not received an immediate reply informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 29 March that it would “impose tariffs on certain products imported from the United States in order to balance the benefits of the US 232 [the metal duties] measures….”
“China’s suspension of the performance of part of its obligations to the United States is China’s legitimate right as a member of the WTO,” claimed the ministry, saying it hoped the USA would “withdraw the measures… as soon as possible, so that the trade of relevant products between China and the United States will return to normal track”.
China’s speed may be designed to send a message to Washington, which is considering a new range of duties against China because of alleged thefts of imported American technology, and their pirating by Chinese manufacturers. If the US imposes more duties in China, Beijing can be expected to respond in kind.