China Cuts Tariffs Ahead of U.S. Commerce Secretary’s Visit to Beijing

SHANGHAI — China announced Thursday evening that it would cut tariffs sharply on July 1 for an eclectic array of imported goods, the latest in a series of moves by Beijing to dismantle steep trade barriers at a time of rising frictions with the United States.

The tariff cuts came less than two days before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is due in Beijing for wide-ranging talks aimed at addressing American frustrations with China’s $375 billion bilateral trade surplus with the United States. But the categories the Chinese Finance Ministry selected for tariff cuts cover few American goods, and appeared to be targeted at China’s goal of developing sophisticated industries rather than low-value mass manufacturing.

The moves came as China and the United States, the world’s two biggest economies, continued their wide-ranging economic and diplomatic sparring. The countries have alternated between attacking each other over trade issues and working together on efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons. At times, President Trump has praised his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at other times he has swiftly criticized Beijing for its trade practices, sometimes in quick succession.

In its latest action, China is making a modest peace offering, without really giving up much.

Some of the 1,449 categories of goods slated for tariff cuts involve food products from other countries, like fish, olives and grilled seaweed. Other categories include low-value manufactured goods like handbags and certain inexpensive garments, typically made in factories that have already been shifting from China to lower-wage competitors like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India and Vietnam.