US-China trade tensions increase as Beijing targets styrene imports

Trade tensions between the world's two largest economies continue to simmer as Beijing has taken aim at imports of a key chemical from the United States. It's the latest move in a growing stand-off over tariffs.

China's Ministry of Commerce announced Tuesday it had found evidence of dumping in styrene imports from the US, Taiwan and South Korea.

Business | 18.12.2017

Styrene is the building block of many plastics and is used to make foam packaging and styrofoam insulation, as well as other items.

Last year, China imported 3.2 billion kilograms of the chemical from the US worth more than $4 billion (€3.25 billion). Beijing said styrene dumping — that is the selling of the chemical at unfairly low prices in China — had to stop.

"Mainland China's styrene industry has suffered substantial harm," the commerce ministry said in a statement, adding that dumping was the cause of this harm.

'Reciprocal tax' in the pipeline?

The ministry's initial ruling called for importers to place anti-dumping deposits of 5 percent to 10.7 percent with China's customs administration. Those deposits will be applied to tariffs, if duties are levied in a final ruling.

The measure comes only a month after the US administration launched new tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels and washing machines, following a move by Beijing to start an anti-dumping investigation into sorghum imports from the US worth $1 billion in 2017.

The Trump administration for its part has put leveling the trade playing field high on the agenda for Sino-US relations.  But in the president's first year in office, the trade deficit swelled to a record high of $375.2 billion.

On Monday, the US president said he would push for a "reciprocal tax" against nations that levy tariffs on US products. But officials did not provide details on how such a tax would be structured or what goods it would apply to.

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hg/aos (AFP, Reuters)

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