A woman browses cosmetics in a Watsons store, operated by A.S. Watson & Co., in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong, China. (Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg)

China Is Said to Plan Tariff Cut on Wide Range of Consumer Goods

(Bloomberg) -- China is planning to reduce import duties on consumer goods ranging from food to cosmetics, people familiar with the matter said.

The tariff cuts, which would be effective as early as July 1, would apply to significantly more product lines than a similar reduction on around 200 items announced last year, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions aren’t public. This week, Beijing announced the reduction of tariffs on car imports to 15 percent from 25 percent, also effective as of July 1.

Policy makers including President Xi Jinping have flagged their intention to open the nation’s vast internal market further to outsiders, a shift that may now have the side-effect of helping to defuse tensions with the Trump administration over the trade imbalance. Negotiations in Washington last week ended with China agreeing to buy more imports from the U.S., averting for now the imposition of U.S. tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese products.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is due to visit Beijing in early June for a further round of meetings aimed at fleshing out that deal.

The consumer-goods cuts will affect food, medicine, health products, and cosmetics, among other items, one of the people said. The exact composition of the cuts hasn’t yet been finalized and is still subject to approval by the State Council, China’s cabinet. The Ministry of Finance didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a fax seeking comment on the measures.

In November, tariff cuts announced on 187 categories of consumer goods boosted shares of companies including Nestle SA and Danone. That step followed Xi’s call at the October Communist Party conclave to meet citizens’ demands for improved living standards and better quality products.

Against the backdrop of trade threats that have escalated since then, any new announcement of lower Chinese duties can be presented as further evidence that Beijing is living up to its side of a bargain struck in Washington to import more goods from the U.S. On Wednesday, Trump cast doubt on a recent thaw between the two sides, saying on Twitter that a deal will “be too hard to get done.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.