China halves tariffs on US$75bn worth of US imports, including soyabeans

China is halving tariffs on US$75bn worth of US imports, effective today, as part of its trade truce with Washington as officials look to calm markets unnerved by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The State Council Tariff Commission said levies of 5% and 10% on more than 1,700 items, including soyabeans, fresh seafood, poultry and some types of aircraft, would be cut, AFP reported.
Washington would also halve tariffs on US$120bn worth of Chinese goods to 7.5%, effective today.

China signed a ‘phase-one’ trade agreement on 15 January to end its bruising trade war with the USA, agreeing to buy an extraUS$200bn in US goods over the next two years. This includes US$32bn of US agricultural products, with 2020 and 2021 imports to reach US$36.5bn and US$43.5bn, respectively, compared with US$24bn in 2017.

The Commission said it "hopes that both parties will be able to abide by their agreement, strive to implement its relevant content, (and) boost market confidence".

Some analysts have cast doubt on whether China will be able to fulfil its purchase target in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

A White House economic advisor said on 4 February that the outbreak would delay Beijing's plans to buy goods from the USA, AFP reported.

However, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a television interview on 6 February that "I don't expect there will be any issues in them fulfilling their commitments”.

As of 12 February, the total number of Covid-19 cases globally was 45,204, with 44,686 in China, according to Worldometers. There had been 1,118 deaths, all but two in China.
Major multinationals such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and IKEA have closed outlets in China. Swiss food giant Nestlé, which has more than 30 factories in the Greater China region, said the company’s focus had been on “ensuring the safety of our people”.

A spokesperson told just-food that the company had “put in place all necessary precautions including enhanced sanitary procedures at our facilities, monitoring for symptoms of illness and advising employees on how to minimise the risk of spreading infection”.