The cost of the China–U.S. trade war
États-Unis-Chine, une guerre commerciale lourde de conséquences.
En septembre dernier, Donald Trump annonçait la mise en place de nouveaux droits de douane sur 200 milliards de dollars de produits d’importation chinoise. Pékin répliquait aussitôt avec une taxe douanière sur 60 milliards de dollars de biens américains. Ces mesures marquent une nouvelle étape dans la guerre commerciale déclenchée par Trump cette année. Quelles en sont les conséquences pour les travailleurs et consommateurs américains ?
Beijing — The shelves of Beijing’s luxury supermarkets are crammed with familiar products that American expatriates cannot seem to do without, from breakfast cereals with just the right level of sugar and crunch to smoky salted nuts and cleaning products with the correct amount of oomph.
2. But Westerners — the main customers in supermarkets like Jenny Lou’s, Jenny Wang and April Gourmet — will have to pay more for a taste of home, according to Jenny Lou’s manager, Rocky Jia, with President Trump moving forward with stiff new tariffs, the latest round of which, affecting $200 billion worth of goods, was announced [on September 17]. China vowed to retaliate with tax increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports, including coffee, honey and chemicals — and analysts predict a long, uncertain battle ahead.
3. Some familiar products, like certain Oreo cookies and Skippy peanut butter, are produced under license in China and would probably not go up in price. But many others are imported and likely to see steep markups, Jia said. In supermarkets of such Beijing neighborhoods as Sanlitun, reminiscent of the U.S. or Europe with its bars, eateries, shopping malls and tree-lined streets, some Western customers said they would not be cowed by price hikes.
4. Despite the brand loyalty of many customers, Jenny Lou’s, which imports about 30 percent of its stock from the U.S., is bracing for a big impact on prices and profits. The supermarket chain launched in 1988 and has 10 stores, with almost three-quarters of its products from overseas, Jia said. Although some Westerners say they would continue to buy their favorite American wares, Jia said that if prices rose steeply, some would probably choose similar products manufactured in Europe.
5. Many U.S. companies doing business with China are facing similar painful choices in coming months. “My sense in communicating with people in the Chinese and U.S. government is that both sides are hardening their positions and that neither is willing to take the kind of unilateral action that would resolve the situation,” said Jacob Parker, vice president of China operations at the U.S.-China Business Council. “The U.S. government is waiting for the Chinese government to show goodfaith efforts such as announcing (that it is) implementing new liberalizations that allow China to operate more like a market economy. “China views those liberalizations as negotiated bargaining chips that it will not give up unilaterally.”
6. The Trump administration wants China to stop restrictive trade practices, such as forcing foreign companies to hand over key technologies in return for access to China’s vast market. It also wants fundamental longterm changes, demanding that China operate more like a market economy, less reliant on subsidies to state firms that make it difficult for outside companies to compete. But the more the trade war piles pressure on Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the less willing he may be to cave in, because it would mean humiliation and loss of face. Analysts warn the trade war is likely to be protracted and painful.
RISKS FOR U.S. COMPANIES AND CONSUMERS
7. While China is unable to match the U.S. dollar amount on tariffs because it imports less from the U.S. than it exports, it has myriad ways to make American companies, consumers and farmers feel pain. China is an important market for U.S. cherries, for example, and China not only targeted cherries with tariffs but also imposed a new weeklong quarantine period, enough to make fruit spoil. Tariffs alone cost Northwest cherry farmers at least $86 million this past summer according to the Northwest Horticultural Council.
8. Imported American cars in China are subject to a 40 percent tariff, making it impossible for them to compete with imported European cars that face a 15 percent tariff. Parker said a wide range of U.S. companies face costly inspections, delays and regulatory scrutiny. One car manufacturer recently saw its random inspection rate jump from 2 percent to 100 percent, he said. Closed investigations into the prices American companies were charging have been abruptly reopened. Even advertising slogans, used for years, were suddenly being questioned. “We feel that there’s enough anecdotal evidence to indicate that there’s something of a trend happening,” Parker said.
9. Another risk is that omnipresent businesses such as Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC could face a consumer boycott. Both countries appear to believe they will win the trade war. Chinese state media commentaries say the economy is strong enough to outlast the U.S. Trump, meanwhile, said [on September 18 that] the U.S. might slap tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese goods. “We don’t want to do it, but we probably — we’ll have no choice,” he said.
10. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that the U.S., seeking to make China a scapegoat for its own problems, had started a trade war that would undermine world trade and harm its trading partners. He said China would pursue a range of measures in retaliation, without detailing what would be done apart from raising tariffs. “China has made full preparations to defend the interests of the nation and the people,” Gao said.
Both countries appear to believe they will win the trade war.