China to lower import tariffs to boost flagging economy

CHANGING TACTICS: A ship docked at a port in Rizhao, Shandong province, China
CHANGING TACTICS: A ship docked at a port in Rizhao, Shandong province, China

China will lower tariffs on products ranging from frozen pork and avocado to some types of semiconductors in 2020, as Beijing looks to boost imports amid a slowing economy and a trade war with the US.

In 2020, China will implement temporary import tariffs, which are lower than the most-favoured-nation tariffs, on more than 850 products, the finance ministry said on Monday. That compared with 706 products that were taxed at temporary rates in 2019.

The tariff changes were made to “increase imports of products facing a relative domestic shortage, or foreign speciality goods for everyday consumption”, the ministry said in a statement.

China and the US cooled their drawn-out trade war earlier in December, announcing a Phase One agreement that will reduce some US tariffs in exchange for more Chinese purchases of US farm products and other goods.

The finance ministry said the tariff rate for frozen pork would be cut to 8% from the most-favoured-nation duty of 12%, as China hopes to plug a huge supply gap after a severe outbreak of African swine fever in August 2018.

This nearly halved China’s pig herd, sending pork prices soaring to record levels.

China will also lower temporary import tariffs for ferroniobium — used as an additive to high-strength low-alloy steel and stainless steel for oil and gas pipelines, cars and trucks — from 1% to 0% in 2020 to support its hi-tech development.

The tariff rate for frozen avocado was cut to 7% from the most-favoured-nation duty of 30%, the ministry said.

China’s economy is expanding at its weakest rate in nearly 30 years and could face more downward pressure in 2020, but the government has vowed to keep growth within a reasonable range.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said China had agreed to buy $200bn (R2.8-trillion) worth of additional US goods and services over the next two years as part of the Phase One trade pact to be signed in early January.

Beijing has said the increased purchases are in line with the growing need of the Chinese people, as the country opens its markets further to global trade.

Tariffs for some asthma and diabetes medications will be set at zero, the ministry said.

Import tariffs on multicomponent semiconductors will be cut to zero.

China will also further lower most-favoured-nation import tariffs on some information technology products from July 1, the ministry said. — Reuters