August 5, 2021

The US-China trade war in dates

3 min read

WASHINGTON: Key dates in the trade battle between the United States and China, that on Wednesday are due to sign a preliminary trade deal to end an almost two-year standoff.

READ: US, China set to sign vital trade truce


On Mar 8, President Donald Trump announces tariffs of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminum from a number of countries in a bid to slash the huge US trade deficit and restore production by American companies.

On the eve of their application, Trump suspends the tariffs for several countries but not China.

On Mar 22, the president foreshadows the coming confrontation with China, signing a memo denouncing the Asian giant’s “economic aggression”.

READ: Commentary: Ill-prepared and misguided, US should back off from trade war with China


On Jul 6, the US slaps punitive duties on about US$34 billion of Chinese products including cars, hard disks and aircraft parts.

Beijing imposes tariffs of equal size and scope, including on American farm products, especially soybeans, as well as cars and marine products.

On Aug 23, Washington puts duties on another US$16 billion of Chinese goods. China responds with 25 per cent tariffs on US$16 billion of US products.

On Sep 24, Washington slaps 10 per cent taxes on US$200 billion of Chinese products. Beijing again retaliates.

US-China trade war
Timeline of US-China trade war AFP/Maryam EL HAMOUCHI


The two sides declare a truce, and Washington delays planned tariff increases for three months. Beijing promises to increase purchases of US farm goods, suspends tariffs on autos and parts and allows rice imports.


On May 10, Washington increases to 25 per cent the punitive duties on US$200 billion in Chinese goods, accusing Beijing of reneging on central commitments made in the negotiations.

Trump on May 15 bars US companies from using foreign telecoms equipment deemed a security risk, a move aimed at Huawei.

On Jun 1, China increases tariffs on US$60 billion of US products.

On Aug 1, Trump announces new 10 per cent tariffs on another US$300 billion in Chinese goods, later increased to 15 per cent.

China fires back, raising tariffs on all US imports.

WATCH: US-China trade war: What you need to know


In early August, China allows the yuan to fall below 7.0 to the dollar for the first time in 11 years. Washington accuses Beijing of manipulating its currency to help its exports, which it angrily denies. Economists question the justification, saying the yuan declined as a result of the tariffs.

On Aug 13, the United States decides to delay until Dec 15 imposition of tariffs on some products, including cell phones, laptops, computer monitors and clothing, effectively shielding holiday shoppers from sudden price increases on popular items.

But others are due to take effect Sep 1, while existing 25 per cent duties on US$250 billion worth of Chinese products were due to rise to 30 per cent on Oct 15.

READ: Commentary: A weaker yuan and how China reminded the US of the economic arrows in its quivers

READ: US Treasury drops China currency manipulator label ahead of trade deal signing

China announces on Aug 23 it will hit US$75 billion worth of US imports with new tariffs in retaliation for the looming hikes. It says it will also re-impose tariffs on US autos.

A day after the Sep 1 tariffs are imposed, China lodges a complaint at the World Trade Organisation.

On Sep 4, Trump announces import duties on structural steel from China, accusing Chinese manufacturers of dumping.

As talks resume, Washington delays and then cancels the tariff increases due to hit on Oct 15.


On Dec 13, Washington and Beijing announce a “phase one” deal under which Beijing agrees to import US$200 billion of US products over two years.

The US cancels new tariffs due to kick in Dec 15, and promises to slash in half the 15 per cent tariffs on US$120 billion imposed Sep 1, on consumer goods like clothing. Beijing also suspends new planned taxes.

US and Chinese officials say the agreement includes protections for intellectual property, and also addresses, financial services and foreign exchange while including a provision for dispute resolution.

It also restores a twice-yearly dialogue process that previous administrations conducted regularly but that Trump scrapped early in his administration.


In a sign of easing tensions, Washington on Jan 13 removes the currency manipulator label it imposed on China.