Trade War Watch: Trump Says China Will Remove Car Tariffs, China Claims Nothing

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Last night President Donald Trump tweeted that China had agreed to reduce tariffs. While The People’s Republic already lowered tariffs over the summer, it chose to cut the United States out of that deal as trade relations worsened. In fact, America found itself subject to an increased, 40-percent fine on imported autos while the rest of the world saw their tariffs (partially) eased. But the president seems optimistic.

“My meeting in Argentina with President Xi of China was an extraordinary one,” Trump explained in a follow-up post. “Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward! Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain if and when a deal is completed. Level the field!”

Meanwhile, China remains silent on the matter.

The stock market, on the other hand, is making noise. The announcement appears to have helped the share price of numerous automakers. General Motors and Daimler shares rose by more than 4 percent in premarket trading while Ford and Tesla increased by about 3 percent apiece. German manufacturers fared even better.

However, the important question here is whether China actually plans to reduce tariffs. Diplomats from the country have been silent, asking that all questions on the issue be forwarded to the Commerce Ministry. But that body is unlikely to say anything until later this week, when it holds its weekly news conference. This isn’t abnormal for China, as most public communications are gone over with a fine-toothed comb prior to release. The nation is extremely careful of what it says to the public (and vice versa).

There’s a chance that China is weighing its options. While it could certainly renege on whatever promise was made to the president, making him look ineffectual, it might not be a good idea to further worsen trade relations — especially with so little to gain.

Most American-branded vehicles sold in China are already built there via joint ventures with Asian firms. Only a small fraction are actually imported directly from the United States. China may feel it has less to lose by opening up the market at this juncture. However, that wouldn’t make the decision meaningful for automakers. “If they cancel the extra 25 percent tariff on U.S.-made cars, then we will see positive signs for imported cars,” Wang Cun, director of the China Automobile Dealers Association’s import committee, told reporters.

According to Reuters, the agreement went down following an extended dinner with Xi Jinping on Saturday in Buenos Aires. Trump agreed to postpone an increase in the tariff rate on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent that was scheduled for January. 1st. In exchange, China agreed to resume purchases of some U.S. farm and energy commodities.

While promising, that doesn’t exactly guarantee anything specifically relating to cars and still involves a 90-day period where the two countries discuss China’s policies on technology transfers, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and theft, services and agriculture. We expect China to make an announcement by Thursday.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Astigmatism Astigmatism on Dec 04, 2018

    Oops: Trump reminds us that he's "a tariff man," the Dow plunges 600 points, and the deal appears to be off. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

    • See 5 previous
    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Dec 05, 2018

      @Astigmatism FreedMike, yup, things have changed since the policies of the last guy were displaced. It looks like the shoe is on the other foot for many these days, like roles have changed. And I am singing the praises of being on the winning side this time instead of the whining side. I hope that President Trump will be able to accomplish more during 2019 although that seems highly unlikely with the agenda of the 'crats. Maybe trade deals without tariffs will come about. What we had pre-Trump put the US at a disadvantage. Glad to see President Trump tackling that inequity. Decades overdue! But, if not, those of us in MY boat will just have to settle for what we got during the first two years of the Trumpian economy.

  • DEVILLE88 DEVILLE88 on Dec 04, 2018

    How is saying that people are not born here..................racist?

    • See 7 previous
    • Jatz Jatz on Dec 04, 2018

      @28-Cars-Later "Whats wrong with country’s full go back to the s***holes you created?" Wiping out indigenes and corralling their few survivors are what this continent's always been about. We had top-notch cavalry and smallpox infested blankets; today's invaders have MS-13 and total misogyny for that pioneers' birth rate.

  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)
  • 1995 SC I'm likely in the minority, but I really liked the last Eldorado best. That and the STS.
  • Dartdude Typical Joe, bribing people for votes. He will do anything to re-elected, but as soon as he is he will go back on everything he says and does. America has never been this venerable as it is today. NO country respect Joe and what he says.
  • Theflyersfan Since I'm one of a couple of IT guys that supports the network, server administration, and all things computer related at a 24/7 logistics center (only closed on Christmas), I have to work some of the long weekend. But there's still time after we close early on Monday to fire up the grill and smoker, have a few friends over and scarf down some smoky rubbed ribs and burgers. Remember those soldiers who have died. I'm sure those in my generation had grandfathers who fought in WW2 and fathers who fought in Vietnam. I have my grandfather's dog tags and his enlistment card framed as a reminder of the sacrifices they made and to honor his memory.