China will “absolutely not” fire the first shot in a trade war with the United States and will not be the first to levy tariffs, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday.
The ministry's comments came as certain foreign media, citing anonymous sources, said China's tariffs on $34 billion of U.S. goods would take effect from the beginning of the day on Friday. Given the 12-hour time difference, that would have put its implementation ahead of Washington’s.
“The Chinese government has stated its position many times. We absolutely will not fire the first shot and will not implement tariff measures ahead of the U.S. doing so,” the Ministry said.
The trade spat between the world’s two largest economies has been in the spotlight for about three months, since U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum in March threatening tariffs on Chinese imports.
The U.S. said it would add tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports on July 6. China was forced to respond in kind.
“A major global tariff shock would have adverse supply side impacts, raising costs for importers and disrupting supply chains, while reducing consumers’ real wages,” said U.S. credit rating agency Fitch Ratings in a Wednesday report.
Li Yong, a senior fellow with the China Association of International Trade, said the unilateral actions of the Trump administration are shortsighted and counterproductive.
“They go against both global interests and the long-term interests of the two countries involved. The consequences of these actions might not be what the White House expects, and in the end, they will only serve to hurt the U.S. itself,” Li said.
Fitch Ratings’ report says the global multiplier effect of lower U.S. imports could be significant, and U.S. outward foreign direct investment would probably fall. Along with weaker confidence and lower investment, a global tariff shock would also hit job creation.
Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Relations of Nanjing University, said: “It is time for the world’s major economies to strengthen cooperation and stand up to Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy. Otherwise, more economies will suffer.”