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02 December 2023

China's exporters fret over Trump tariffs

Photo: AP


With the eyes of the world on Washington for this week's high-stakes trade talks between China and the United States, none will be more focused than those of Chinese exporters who are increasingly worried about the impact of more tariffs.

Companies shipping a range of products from seafood to furniture are among those in the firing line as the economic superpowers try to resolve a trade war that has seen both sides impose levies on hundreds of billions worth of goods.

Donald Trump at the weekend raised the pressure on Beijing, saying he would more than double punitive tariffs on $200 billion of imports Friday when China's top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, is in Washington for the two-day meeting.

Firms making their wares in China are already hurting under US punitive duties imposed last year and insiders at several of them told AFP that Trump's latest measures would force them to relocate production and lay off staff.

"We're waiting for the results of the negotiation. If Trump wants to do anything we can't stop him," said an employee at Tongwei Hainan Aquatic Products, which specialises in tilapia and ships most of its product to the US.

"Last year the customer couldn't accept higher prices so our factory needed to lower the price to stay in business," the employee said, adding some smaller competitors had shut up shop.

Easy to farm, tilapia is known as "aquatic chicken" in the seafood industry and the cheap fillets that come frozen from China pile up on American dinner tables.

Last year 84 percent of US frozen tilapia imports, worth $435 million, came from China, according to US data.

But Trump's 10 percent tariffs have hampered sales this year, with American imports of the fish roughly halved in January and down in February.