Home / Business / The US-China trade war has escalated dramatically in recent weeks. Here’s a timeline of everything that’s happened so far.

The US-China trade war has escalated dramatically in recent weeks. Here’s a timeline of everything that’s happened so far.

NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

  • The Trump administration started a trade dispute with China in early 2018, in an attempt to address practices it said put US companies at a disadvantage.
  • The two sides have since slapped steep tariffs on thousands of products and threatened further escalations, with no clear end in sight.
  • Here’s a timeline of the US-China trade war so far.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

March 1, 2018: President Donald Trump announces tariffs on all imports of steel and aluminum, including metals from China.

March 22, 2018: Trump announces plans to impose 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. China announces tariffs in retaliation to the steel and aluminum duties and promises a response to the latest US announcement.

April 3, 2018: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announces a list of Chinese goods subject to the tariffs. There is a mandatory 60-day comment period for industries to ask for exemptions from the tariffs.

April 4, 2018: China rolls out a list of more than 100 US goods worth roughly $50 billion that are subject to retaliatory tariffs.

May 21, 2018: After a meeting, the two countries announce the outline of a trade deal to avoid the tariffs.

May 29, 2018: The White House announces that the tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods will move forward, with the final list of goods to be released on June 15. The move appears to wreck the nascent trade deal.


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June 15, 2018: Trump rolls out the final list of goods subject to new tariffs. Chinese imports worth $34 billion would be subject to the new 25% tariff rate as of July 6, with another $16 billion worth of imports subject to the tariff at a later date. China retaliates with an equivalent set of tariffs.

June 18, 2018: Trump threatens 10% tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

July 6, 2018: The first tranche of tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods takes effect; China responds in kind.

July 10, 2018: The US releases an initial list of an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that could be subject to 10% tariffs.

July 24, 2018: The Trump administration announces a $12 billion bailout package for farmers hurt by retaliatory duties on agricultural products, set to begin in September.

August 1, 2018: Washington more than doubles the value of its tariff threats against Beijing, announcing plans to increase the size of proposed duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%.

August 3, 2018: China says it will impose tariffs at various rates on another $60 billion worth of US goods if Trump moves forward with his latest threat.


AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool

August 7, 2018: The US announces that the second tranche of tariffs, which would hit $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, will take effect August 23.

August 23, 2018: The US imposes tariffs on another $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, and Beijing responds with tariffs on $16 billion worth of US goods.

September 7, 2018: Trump says the tranche of tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods is coming “soon” and threatens to impose tariffs on another $267 billion worth of Chinese goods.

September 17, 2018: The US imposes tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and the tariff rate is scheduled to increase to 25% from 10% on January 1.

December 1, 2018: Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping sit down at the G20 summit in Argentina, where the two leaders hash out a trade truce, delaying the escalation of US tariffs until March 1.

December 4, 2018: Despite the truce, Trump tweets that he is still a “Tariff Man” and says a deal will get done only if it is in the best interest of the US.

February 24, 2019: After a series of negotiations, Trump announces that US tariffs will not increase on March 1. He delays the increase indefinitely.

April 1, 2019: Violent clashes between authorities and pro-democracy protesters break out in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The government blames US influence for the demonstrations, but Trump maintains a softer tone with President Xi Jinping.


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May 5, 2019: After apparent progress in talks, the US accuses China of reneging on past trade commitments. Trump threatens to raise tariff rates and place duties on another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods.

May 10, 2019: Trump follows through with those threats, increasing import taxes to $25% from 10% on about $200 billion worth of products from China. Negotiations stall, and the US gives China a three-to-four-week deadline for a deal, according to Bloomberg.

May 13, 2019: China retaliates against the US by announcing it will raise tariff rates on $60 billion worth of American products on June 1.

May 15, 2019: Trump signs an executive order barring American companies from using telecommunications gear from foreign adversaries officials declared as a threat to national security. He also adds Huawei and dozens of other Chinese companies to the US’s “Entity List.”

May 21, 2019: Xi calls on China to begin a new “long march,” which is seen by some as a signal that the country is gearing up for a prolonged standoff with the US.

May 22, 2019: Xi visits one of the largest suppliers of rare-earth elements in China. The move was widely seen as a reminder of the leverage China holds when it comes to minerals the US relies on for a variety of goods, from jet fuel to wind turbines.


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May 23, 2019: Trump rolls out a $16 billion bailout program for farmers who have been hurt by China’s retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products.

June 2, 2019: China releases a policy paper blaming the US for stalled trade negotiations, drawing objections from the US Trade Representative.

June 3, 2019: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls on the Chinese government to publicly acknowledge the anniversary of the deadly crackdown on the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

June 4, 2019: A Foreign Ministry spokesman condemns Pompeo in a statement, saying his statement amounted to interference in its internal affairs. The Chinese government issues travel warnings for the US, saying its citizens had been subject to what it called harassment by American law enforcement.

June 10, 2019: Trump says that tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese products will take effect “immediately” if progress isn’t made at an anticipated meeting with Xi in Japan at the end of the month.

June 17, 2019: Hundreds of company representatives travel to Washington to testify against planned tariff escalations before the US Trade Representative. Throughout seven days of hearings, many warn that taxing all imports from China would increase costs and threaten US jobs.


REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

June 17, 2019: Trump says he has spoken with Xi by phone in recent days. He confirms that the two leaders will sit down at G20 and adds that trade delegations will be in contact before then.

June 25, 2019: Bloomberg reports that the US is preparing to stall additional tariffs on China at the Trump-Xi meeting.

June 27, 2019: The Wall Street Journal reports that Xi plans to head to his meeting with Trump armed with conditions for de-escalation, including lifting tariffs and a ban on Huawei. The Trump administration doubles down on previous threats, saying escalation is still on the table.

June 29, 2019: Trump and Xi reach a trade-war ceasefire on the sidelines of G20, delaying planned tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese products. The two sides agree to restart negotiations that stalled in May.

July 3, 2019: Trump accuses other countries including China of currency manipulation and suggests the US should weaken the dollar to compete.

July 9, 2019: Weeks after blacklisting Huawei, the Commerce Department says it will consider issuing licenses to companies who do business with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

July 11, 2019: Trump accuses China of reneging on a past commitment to purchase more American agricultural products.

July 29, 2019: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resume trade talks with their Chinese counterparts in Shanghai.


Alex Wong/Getty Images

July 31, 2019: Those negotiations end with the next round expected in September. Both sides portray the discussions as constructive, but there are few signs of concrete progress.

August 1, 2019: In a reversal, Trump abruptly announces the US will move forward with tariffs on virtually all remaining imports from China.

August 2, 2019: China warns it will retaliate with “the necessary countermeasures” if Trump follows through with his latest tariff threats, which the country says violated an agreement reached at G20.

August 5, 2019: The US Treasury Department labels China a currency manipulator after the country allows the yuan to breach the psychologically key level of 7 against the dollar. China says it will halt purchases of American agricultural products.

August 9, 2019: Trump threatens again that the US will cut ties with Huawei. The Commerce Department says it will hold off on making a decision on licenses to do business with the telecommunications giant.

August 13, 2019: The US delays a portion of tariffs on China, set to take effect September 1, until December 15. The administration says the move was meant to avoid disruptions to the holiday shopping season in the US, a rare acknowledgement that tariffs can raise prices.


Drew Angerer/Getty Images

August 23, 2019: China prepares retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of US products and says it will reinstate duties on cars. The escalations are set to go into place the same dates as on the US side.

Trump vows to hit back against those countermeasures, announcing the US will raise the tariff rates on Chinese products by about 5%. Financial markets tumble sharply as the president also orders private US companies to leave China, sowing confusion even though the command carries no legislative weight.

August 25, 2019: Trump suggests to reporters that he’s having “second thoughts” on trade escalations. The White House clarifies that statement hours later, saying the president only regrets not raising tariffs on China further.

August 26, 2019: Trump moves to cast a positive light on trade negotiations as financial markets open. He says Chinese officials called over the weekend and want to make a deal, but declines to elaborate. China disputes that claim.


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