U.S.-China Trade War Timeline: What's Happened and What's Next

(Bloomberg) -- Talks resume in Washington this week between the U.S. and China over the trade dispute. With a previous round of discussions ending on an optimistic note and about four weeks before the U.S.-imposed deadline for a deal, all eyes are on what they can hammer our over the next two days.

Here’s what the two sides are looking for, and here’s the timeline of what’s happened this past year, in reverse chronological order.

DateJoint actionU.S. actionChinese action
3/1/2019Deadline for a deal.
30-31/1/2019Talks scheduled in Washington.
1/29/2019Reported that China offered to buy more farm products.

1/28/2019

The key issue in talks will be how any deal will be enforced, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says, while Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the trade and Huawei questions are separate.

1/28/2019U.S. formally seeks extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou from Canada and charges company with theft of intellectual property and bank fraud.
1/28/2019Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington. Liu is lead negotiator and is accompanied by the central bank governor and others.
1/24/2019Commerce Secretary Ross says both sides are eager to end their trade war but the outcome will hinge on whether Beijing will deepen economic reforms and further open up its markets.
1/24/2019China says it will grant new banking licences to foreign banks within the next six months.
1/22/2019 China said to be considering buying 7 million tons of U.S. wheat.
1/19/2019

Reported that two sides have made little progress on question of intellectual property.

1/18/2019

Reported that U.S. is preparing to restrict Chinese telecom companies from operating in the U.S.

1/18/2019

Reported that China offering a path to eliminate U.S. trade deficit.

1/17/2019Reported that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin proposed lowering tariffs on China to calm markets. Treasury later denies report.
1/15/2019U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer saw little progress in the trade talks, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says.
1/15/2019

Reported that China has asked some state-run companies to avoid business trips to the U.S. and its allies.

1/10/2019

Reported that U.S. is blocking some exports from Huawei’s U.S. unit.

1/9/2019Talks end in Beijing.U.S. statement emphasized Chinese commitment to buy more goods and how to verify any agreement is enforced.Chinese statement merely says meeting "laid the foundation for resolving mutual concerns."

1/9/2019

A state-owned microchip manufacturer pleads non-guilty in a U.S. court on charges of stealing trade secrets.

1/8/2019Reported that Trump wants a deal with China done to boost stock market. He later tweets that talks "are going very well."
1/7-9/2019Mid-level officials meet for talks in Beijing.
12/25/2018China pledges to treat all firms equally, whether they are foreign, private Chinese companies or state-owned enterprises.
12/24/2018China cuts tariffs on more than 700 imports. It also resumed imports of LNG and crude oil from the U.S in November, according to customs data.
12/21/2018Mid-level officials on both sides spoke by phone.
12/19/2018U.S. accuses China of broad economic espionage and hacking.
12/19/2018Mid-level officials on both sides spoke by phone.
12/13/2018China orders 1.5 million - 2 million tons of soybeans from the U.S.
12/11/2018Trump said he would intervene in the case of Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou if it would help win a trade deal with China.Canada confirms that a former diplomat has been arrested in China, in a case sees as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei’s Meng.
12/11/2018Vice Premier Liu and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talk via phone.Reported that China will cut retaliatory tariffs on car imports from U.S. Later confirmed the tariff will be temporarily lifted from Jan. 1.
12/05/2018Reported that Canada had arrested Huawei’s Meng at the request of the U.S. on Dec. 1, just before the summit between Trump and Xi. She is later released on bail.China immediately protests the arrest.
12/05/2018China says it will quickly implement deal, and is said to tell officials told to prepare to resume soy and LNG imports from the U.S.
12/04/2018China announced new punishments for intellectual property theft.
12/1/2018Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a truce and talks, freezing tariffs at the current level for 90 days.U.S. postpones increase on tariffs on $200 billion of imports, which was planned for Jan. 1.China agreed to increase imports, according to Foreign Minister Wang Yi. According to White House Spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, China also agreed to:
  • Immediately restart buying agricultural products
  • Buy substantial amounts of farm, energy and industrial and other products from the U.S. (amount not yet agreed)
  • Reconsider the Qualcomm-NXP takeover deal (that China declined to approve) if it was presented again.
  • Designate fentanyl as a controlled substance
11/28/2018U.S. Trade Representative announces it will look to equalize car tariffs with China, calling the Chinese policy "especially egregious."
11/26/2018Trump threatens to increase tariffs, possibly to cover all U.S. imports.
11/23/2018U.S. government has been urging its allies not to use telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co., according to the Wall Street Journal.
11/20/2018The World Trade Organization agreed to launch investigation into China’s intellectual property policy and U.S. metals tariffs.
11/20/2018USTR accused China of continuing a state-backed campaign of intellectual property and technology theft in an update on its Section 301 report on China’s protection of IP.
11/19/2018U.S. pushed ahead with plan to tighten restrictions on technology exports.
11/18/2018APEC forum ended without a communique after dispute over statement on trade. Xi and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traded barbs at the event.
11/16/2018Trumpsaid the U.S. may not need to impose more tariffs, as China wants to make a deal and had sent a list of responses to U.S. demands.
11/15/2018Trump said he wanted any deal to include soybeans.
11/15/2018Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that at best, Trump and Xi will likely agree to a framework for further talks. USTR Lighthizerdenied reports that further tariffs are on hold.
11/13/2018China complained to the WTO that the U.S. ban on companies doing business with a Chinese chipmaker Fujian Jinhua violates WTO rules.
11/13/2018The two nations are talking at "all levels," according to President Trump’s economic aide Larry Kudlow.
11/12/2018U.S. administration plans to use export controls, indictments and other tools to counter Chinese theft of intellectual property, according to the Wall Street Journal.
11/09/2018Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice Premier Liu He spoke.White House adviser Peter Navarro warned "Wall Street" to stay out of negotiations with China. He’s later criticized for these comments by Kudlow.
11/6/2018China ready to discuss a trade solution with the U.S., but it won’t again be “bullied and oppressed” by foreign powers, according to Vice President Wang Qishan.
11/02/2018Trump said to have asked cabinet to draft possible trade deal with China.
11/01/2018Trump and Xi spoke in a phonecall, and Trump later says he thinks a deal will be reached.
11/01/2018U.S. indicts a state-owned chipmaker Fujian Jinhua and a Taiwanese firm for allegedly conspiring to steal trade secrets from U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc.
11/01/2018U.S. announced a new effort against Chinese economic espionage.
10/30/2018U.S. charged 10 people, including two people it claimed were Chinese intelligence officers, as part of an alleged conspiracy to steal U.S. jet engine technology.
10/29/2018U.S. announcedrestrictions on exports to chipmaker Fujian Jinhua.
10/29/2018Trump predicted a "great deal" with Xi, and also said China isn’t ready.
10/29/2018U.S. said to be planning more tariffs on China if meeting with Xi fails.
10/25/2018The U.S. won’t resume talks with China without a firm proposal on tech, the WSJ reports.
10/23/2018U.S. announced that Trump will meet with Xi at G-20 meeting.
10/21/2018Kudlow said China refusing to engage on trade issues.
10/18/2018China, the EU and others asked the WTO to investigate U.S. tariffs on metals imports.
10/18/2018U.S. requested that a WTO dispute resolution panel get involved in a clash over retaliation against U.S. metals tariffs, Reuters reported.
10/17/2018U.S. didn’t name China as a currency manipulator.
10/17/2018U.S. announced it wants to withdraw from an international postal treaty which it claims unfairly benefits China.
10/17/2018U.S.-China relations in "something of a hiatus," according to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
10/14/2018Trump said he "might" impose a third round of tariffs on China.
10/14/2017China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankaisaid the nation was forced to respond to a U.S. initiated trade war, and will defend its national interest.
10/12/2018Chinese state media pushed back at accusations from Vice President Pence, and calls for U.S. to work to find a solution.
10/10/2018U.S. extradited an alleged Chinese intelligence officer from Belgium on charges of trying to steal trade secrets from a U.S. aviation company.
10/08/2018Secretary of State Mike Pompeopublicly rebuked by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing.
10/05/2018China said the Pence speech makes "unwarranted accusations."
10/4/2018U.S. Vice President Pence made a speech attacking China.
10/03/2018U.S. administration reviewing how it can stop exports that could help China surveil and intern minority Muslims, Reuters reports.
9/30/2018A Chinese official called allegations of forced tech transfers a "misunderstanding."
9/26/2018Trump accused China of interfering in U.S. elections, and said his friendship with Xi might be over.
9/26/2018China announced it will cut some import tariffs from Nov. 1. Measure applies to all nations, not just U.S.
9/25/2018Trump said China’s trade and economic abuses "cannot be tolerated."
9/25/2018China’s commerce ministry said it can’t negotiate with a knife to its throat, and it’s up to the U.S. when to resume talks.
9/24/2018China issued a White Paper putting its case on the trade dispute.
9/24/2018U.S. imposed tariffs.China also imposed tariffs.
9/22/2018China calls off planned talks.
9/20/2018U.S. imposedsanctions on Chinese defense equipment purchasing department.
9/18/2018China announced retaliation on $60 billion of U.S. goods to become effective simultaneously with the U.S. duties.
9/17/2018U.S. announced 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese exports effective Sept. 24 until the end of 2018, to rise to 25 percent afterward.
9/6/2018End of comment period for tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports.
8/23/2018Tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese imports began.Chinese retaliation of tariffs on $16 billion of U.S. exports began.
8/03/2018China announced a list of $60 billion worth of U.S. imports it will apply tariffs on should the Trump administration follow through with higher tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
8/02/2018U.S. Trade Representative confirmed that PresidentTrump was considering increasing proposed tariff on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent.
7/31/2018China, US. reported to be trying to restart trade talks.
7/26/2018Qualcomm Inc. decided to scrap a $44 billion takeover of NXP Semiconductors NV, because China didn’t sign off as time expired.
7/20/2018Trump said he’s "ready to go" with tariffs on $500 billion of Chinese imports.
7/11/2018The USTR released a list of $200 billion of Chinese goods it plans to impose an extra 10 percent tariffs on.
7/6/2018Tariffs on $34 billion of imports began.Tariffs on $34 billion of imports began.
7/6/2018ZTE Corp. received limited authorization to resume business.
7/3/2018U.S. computer chip company Micron Technology Inc.ordered to halt sales in China.
6/27/2018Trump agreed to less aggressive option to limit Chinese investment in the U.S.
6/21/2018Xi said China will hit back if struck, according to the Wall Street Journal, and criticized Pompeo, who had called Chinese claims of economic openness “a joke.”
6/20/2018White House releasedreport accusing China of threatening U.S. interests.
6/19/2018Trump said U.S. looking to put tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese exports, with another $200 billion after that if China retaliates.
6/18/2018Pompeo called Chinese claims of economic openness “a joke.”
6/15/2018U.S. announcedtariffs on $50 billion of imports from China, with Trump threatening more if China retaliates.China responds in kind.
6/15/2018Qualcomm Inc.’s takeover of NXP Semiconductors NV is said to be approved by Chinese regulators, although a later report contradicts this.
6/15/2018Pompeo met Xi, discussing trade and security.
6/7/2018Rossannounced deal allowing ZTE to get back into business.
6/6/2018China said to offer to buy $25 billion more of U.S. goods in 2018.
6/3/2018China said previous offers and deals are off if tariffs imposed.
6/2-4/2018Ross and Chinese Vice Premier Liu Hemet in Beijing for talks.
5/30/2018China announced cuts to tariffs on some consumer goods, to start July 1.
5/29/2018U.S. announced plan to limit some visas for Chinese citizens to protect intellectual property.
5/29/2018U.S. announced that it’s moving ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of imports and a plan to curb investment in sensitive technology.
5/29/2018China said to be considering buying more U.S. coal to narrow trade deficit.
5/28/2018At the WTO, U.S. accused China of imposing laws that result in the theft of U.S. tech and IP.
5/28/2018China ready to approve Qualcomm/NXP deal if it gets assurances that the U.S. will lift ban on ZTE Corp.
5/28/2018U.S. said to be pressing China to sign long-term import contracts.
5/25/2018U.S. announced a $1.3 billion fine and other punishments for ZTE, but will allow company to resume purchasing from American suppliers.
5/23/2018Trump backed away from the previous day’s deal, saying U.S. will "probably have to use a different structure."
5/22/2018China will cut import duties on cars to 15% from 25%.
5/22/2018Two nations agreed on the "broad outline" of a settlement for ZTE dispute, the WSJ reported.China offered to remove tariffs on U.S. farm products as part of the deal.
5/21/2018Trump tweeted that China will buy "massive amounts of additional farm/agricultural products."
5/20/2018Both nations reached an agreement and issued a joint statement.The U.S. agreed to hold off on tariffs.China offered to significantly increase purchases of U.S. goods.
5/18/2018China ended anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into sorghum.
5/17/2018Talks began in Washington.
5/14/2018China is said to restart review of Qualcomm’s proposed NXP deal.
5/13/2018Trump tweeted that he’s working with Xi to get ZTE "back into business."
5/10/2018ZTE ceased major operations in the U.S.
5/3-4/2018Trade talks in Beijing. No agreement reached, and no statement released.U.S. demanded a $200 billion cut in trade deficit.China protested over ZTE case, demands end of Section 301 investigation.
4/28/2018China objected to being on U.S. intellectual property watch list.
4/27/2018U.S. kept China on IP priority watch list of nations.
4/26/2018Reported that China may cut car import tariffs by half.
4/26/2018Reported that U.S. looking into China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for possible violation of sanctions against Iran.
4/17/2018China announced it will collect anti-dumping tariffs on sorghum imports from the U.S., a trade worth about $1 billion in 2017.
4/16/2018U.S. penalized China’s ZTE 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.
4/10/2018Xi promised to open up various sectors including autos and finance.
4/5/2018Trump issued statement that says “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” for his initial tariffs, his administration will consider an addition $100 billion in tariffs.
4/5/2018China complained to the WTO about U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
4/4/2018U.S. responded to China’s WTO complaint on the section 301 tariffs, calling it baseless.
4/4/2018China complained to WTO about the section 301 tariff action by the U.S.
4/4/2018China said 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.
4/3/2018The U.S. released 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.
4/2/2018China said it will start levying tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. imports including fresh fruits, nuts, wine and pork. This is in response to U.S. tariffs on metals.
Early AprilLiu He told 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.
3/27/2018U.S. released Section 301 report on China.
3/23/2018China unveiled tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. imports in response to steel and aluminum tariffs .
3/23/2018US complained to WTO about Chinese protection of IP.
3/22/2018U.S. proposed tariffs in response to China’s "unfair trade practices” related to technology transfer, IP, and innovation; says it will complain to WTO and look at restricting investment from China.
3/9/2018Trump signed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from all nations, including China.
2/4/2018China started a one-year anti-subsidy investigation into sorghum imported from the U.S.
1/22/2018U.S. imposed 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.

Further Reading

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.