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Struggling to keep track? Here’s the US-China Trade War Timeline

China has been a top agricultural export market for the U.S. for decades, trading between the first and second slots with Canada since 2009.  However, the U.S. and China have been engaged in a trade war for more than two years now.  With the U.S. imposing tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (specifically, steel and aluminum tariffs) and Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (relating to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation) and China’s subsequent retaliation[1], agricultural exports from China have dropped from $19.6 billion in 2017 to $9.0 billion in 2018.  With the average tariff applied to imports of Chinese goods now at more than 21%, compared to an average of just over 3% at the beginning of the Trump Administration, the back-and-forth tariff escalations can be difficult to track. 

Below is a timeline of the tariffs and other key actions the two countries have adopted.

In addition to these activities, President Trump has indicated the U.S. is planning to continue imposing tariffs (possibly increasing the List 3 tariffs from 10% to 25% on October 1 and up to 30% later, as well as imposing tariffs on all remaining imports of Chinese goods).  China has indicated it will continue to retaliate with “the necessary countermeasures.”  However, the U.S. and China are continuing negotiations with trade teams from the U.S. and China scheduled to meet later in September.

Author Megan Provost is vice president of policy and programs for Farm Foundation. She brings together stakeholders in the food and agriculture industries to engage in informed dialogue on timely food, agricultural and rural policy issues.


[1] See Current Foreign Retaliatory Actions at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (https://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/tradedisputes-enforcement/retaliations/tg_ian_002094.asp#P40_4586) for additional information and specific tariff lists.

[2] See United States – Certain Measures on Steel and Aluminum Products: Request for Consultations by China at the World Trade Organization (https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S009-DP.aspx?language=E&CatalogueIdList=247730&CurrentCatalogueIdIndex=0&FullTextHash=&HasEnglishRecord=True&HasFrenchRecord=True&HasSpanishRecord=True)

[3] See United States – Tariff Measures on Certain Goods from China II: Request for Consultations by China at the World Trade Organization (https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S009-DP.aspx?language=E&CatalogueIdList=247730&CurrentCatalogueIdIndex=0&FullTextHash=&HasEnglishRecord=True&HasFrenchRecord=True&HasSpanishRecord=True)

[4] See Market Facilitation Program at U.S. Department of Agriculture (https://www.farmers.gov/manage/mfp) for additional information on the program and how to sign up.

[5] See Treasury Designates China as a Currency Manipulator at U.S. Department of the Treasury (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm751) for additional information.

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