China's plan to impose reciprocal tariffs on 128 U.S. products is subject to change and the items to be taxed will depend on the results of trade talks, said Li Xie, director of Export Division One, which is in charge of exports at China's Ministry of Commerce.
"It is a temporary list. It is possible that the ministry will change items listed next week," Li told S&P Global Market Intelligence, noting that the ministry could add or delete certain items, depending on negotiations with the U.S. and consultations with related parties in China. When asked to specify who or what these parties are, he declined.
The Ministry of Commerce announced March 23 that it plans to impose a 15% tariff on 120 U.S. products including 33 types of seamless steel pipes in phase one, and to apply a 25% tariff on eight U.S. products including scrapped aluminum in a second phase.
"There could be new lists going forward," said Li, adding that the list of 128 products is in direct response to the Section 232 investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which led to President Donald Trump's tariff announcement of 25% on global steel imports and 10% on aluminum.
China's reciprocal tariffs are expected to affect US$3 billion in U.S. exports, whereas the U.S. is targeting US$50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering fears of a trade war between the two countries.
Li said the government will continue to protect its rights by following World Trade Organization rules. "We are quite restrained [in reacting to U.S. actions]," Li said.
Commenting on how the ministry decided to include a certain item on the list, Li said the ministry needs to ensure that the planned tariffs will not have any major impact on domestic downstream companies.
Li added that the evaluation was based on a combination of indicators, including previous export volumes and trends.