Washington: American businesses do not want the US administration to escalate the trade war by going ahead with plans to slap new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods and, instead, expects it to bring an end to the tit-for-tat tariffs.

On Monday, the US trade representative’s (USTR) office initiated another round of intense public consultations, which will be held over six days, “regarding the proposed tariffs on approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese products".

According to the USTR, the proposed tariffs “are a supplemental action in response to China’s unfair trade practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation" under Section 301. The latest action by the USTR comes close on the heels of tariffs imposed on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Effectively, if the Trump administration goes ahead with the punitive tariffs by the end of September, almost half of all Chinese imports to the US will be impacted, said analysts. During consultations with the USTR, the US Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns over escalating trade war between the US and China, and cautioned that the proposed action “dramatically expands the harm to American consumers, workers, businesses and the economy."

More than 300 American businesses are expected to indicate the likely impact of the retaliatory tariffs on their respective industries. Sporting goods manufacturers, candle makers, footwear companies and semiconductor producers, besides others, have urged the USTR to exclude their sectors from the tariffs, the Washington Post reported on 21 August.

The USTR’s public hearings coincides with the talks between the US and China on Wednesday to discuss possible trade-offs to break the deadlock. The US team is led by undersecretary of the treasury department David Malpass, while Wang Shouwen, vice-minister for commerce is leading the Chinese team.

While Beijing is unlikely to blink during Wednesday’s talks, the US administration remains split between China hawks and treasury officials. China hardliners, such as White House adviser Peter Navarro, remain opposed to the American companies’ dependence on China.

USTR ambassador Robert Lighthizer, too, believes that China is responsible for unfair trade practices, forcing American companies to transfer their technology and intellectual property rights. But US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin favours normal trade relations with China through financial liberalization.

During the failed high-level negotiations between the US and China, the US reportedly presented the Chinese with an eight-point maximalist list. Beijing was asked to reduce its trade surplus drastically, and stop subsidies for new technology industries that are part of the China 2025 strategy. It was also asked not to take retaliatory measures on American agricultural products such as soybeans.

China is not going to accept demands made at gun point, Wang had said last month in Geneva. “For any talks to be (a) success, no party should point a gun at the other party and for any talks to be useful, every party needs to keep its word."

China also maintained that the US had allocated subsidies of $68 billion between 2000 to 2015 to its National Information Infrastructure and the US Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

A 2013 report to the US Congress by the US-CHINA Economic and Security Review Commission said “growing demand from China has supported American exports in certain sectors of the US economy, such as aerospace, the auto industry and agricultural products," China claimed.

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