China to halve tariffs on some U.S. imports as virus risks grow
China on Thursday said it would halve additional tariffs levied against 1,717 U.S. goods last year, following the signing of a Phase 1 deal that brought a truce to a bruising trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
While the announcement reciprocates the U.S. commitment under the deal, it is also seen by analysts as a move by Beijing to boost confidence amid a virus outbreak that has disrupted businesses and hit investor sentiment.
Casting doubts over the immediate outlook, however, was the prospect raised in a local media report that Beijing could invoke a disaster-related clause in the trade agreement, which might allow it to avoid repercussions even if it cannot fully meet the targeted purchases of U.S. goods and services for 2020.
The ministry did not state the value of the goods affected by the decision, but the products benefiting from the new rule are part of the $75 billion of goods that China announced last year that it would impose 5% to 10% tariffs on, which came into effect on Sept. 1.
The reductions will cut tariffs on soybeans from 30% to 27.5%, although some traders say the impact could be limited as the 25% tariffs remains in place. Duties on crude oil will fall to 2.5% from 5% that was imposed in September.
The remaining tariffs were scheduled to kick in Dec. 15 but were suspended due to the interim trade deal.
“The announcement shows China’s commitment to implement the phase one trade deal despite the disruptions from the recent virus outbreak,” said Xie.
The news was positive for financial markets and comes as Beijing seeks to shore up investor and business confidence in China as a virus outbreak casts deep uncertainty over the economic outlook.
The yuan hit its highest in two weeks, while Asian stocks and Wall Street futures also rallied after the announcement.