Tit-for-Tat: Timeline of the Escalating U.S.-China Trade Dispute

(Bloomberg) -- Years of trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies have taken a turn for the worse. Now, senior U.S. officials are in China to discuss the tariff threats from both sides, and to try and stop the conflict boiling over.

Here’s a timeline of major developments this year (in reverse chronological order).

DateU.S. actionChinese actionCategory
5/3/2018Trade talks start in Beijing.
4/28/2018China objects to being on U.S. intellectual property watch list.IP
4/27/2018U.S. keeps China on IP priority watch list of nations which “present the most significant concerns this year regarding inadequate or ineffective IP protection or enforcement.”IP
4/26/2018Reported that China may cut car import tariffs by half. U.S. President Donald Trump has complained about this issue.Market access
4/26/2018Reported that U.S. looking into China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for possible violation of sanctions against Iran.Commercial
4/17/2018China announces it will collect temporary anti-dumping deposits of almost 180 percent on grain sorghum imported from the U.S., a trade worth about $1 billion in 2017.Agriculture
4/16/2018U.S. penalizes China’s ZTE Corp. for violating a previous agreement punishing it for doing business with Iran and North Korea. The company is banned from buying U.S. technology for seven years.Commercial
4/10/2018President Xi Jinping promises to open up various sectors including autos and financeMarket access
4/5/2018President Trump issues statement that says “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” for his initial tariffs, he instructed the government to consider an addition $100 billion in tariffs. Section 301 action on IP protection
4/5/2018China complains to the World Trade Organization about newly imposed U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.Section 232 action on metals tariffs
4/4/2018U.S. responds to China’s WTO complaint on the section 301 tariffs, calling it baseless.IP
4/4/2018China complains to WTO about the section 301 tariff action by the U.S.IP
4/4/2018China says it will levy an additional 25 percent tariff on imports of 106 U.S. products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft, in response to proposed American duties on its high-tech goods.IP
4/3/2018The U.S. releases a list dominated by high-tech industrial products as targets for proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of imports. This is aimed at recouping losses from China’s alleged abuse of intellectual property.IP
4/2/2018China says it will start levying tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. imports including fresh fruits, nuts, wine and pork.Metals tariffs
Early AprilSenior Chinese official Liu He tells other officials that trade talks between the two parties broke down after the U.S. demanded that China curtail support for high-technology industries.Beijing had offered to cut the bilateral trade deficit by $50 billion. IP
3/27/2018U.S. releases text of Section 301 report on China.IP
3/23/2018China unveils tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. imports in response to steel and aluminum tariffs .Metals tariffs
3/23/2018US complains to WTO about Chinese protection of IP.IP
3/22/2018In response to what it terms “China’s unfair trade practices” related to technology transfer, IP, and innovation, the U.S. proposes tariffs, and says it will complain to the WTO and look at restricting investment from China. IP
3/9/2018Trump signs tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from all nations, including China.Metals tariffs
2/4/2018China starts a one-year anti-subsidy investigation into sorghum imported from the U.S.Agriculture
1/22/2018U.S. imposes safeguard tariffs on washing machine and solar cell imports. While much of these imports don’t come from China, the statement makes clear that Chinese dominance of the global supply chain was a concern.

For ease of understanding, we’ve cut the anti-dumping and countervailing duties the U.S. has imposed on on things like aluminum foil, steel pipes, rubber bands and flanges, to focus on the main points of the dispute.

Further Reading

  • Timeline of the dispute from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • U.S. Trade Representative’s press release and report on the Section 301 tariffs on IP.
  • WTO dispute list.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: James Mayger in Tokyo at jmayger@bloomberg.net, Xiaoqing Pi in Beijing at xpi1@bloomberg.net, Miao Han in Beijing at mhan22@bloomberg.net.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from James Mayger, Xiaoqing Pi, Miao Han