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Beijing rattles protectionist mould to slash duties on 850 imported goods from next year

China is to cut tariffs on more than 850 goods from 1 January in order to boost growth in the worlds second biggest economy.

In a move designed to draw a contrast with Donald Trumps protectionist approach to trade, Beijing said there would be a temporary cut in duties on products ranging from frozen pork to semiconductors.

An outbreak of swine flu prompted the reduction in tariffs on imported pork but Chinas willingness to cut the cost of other goods coming into the country reflected concern at the slowest growth rate in 30 years.

Chinas finance ministry said in a statement that the changes were made to increase imports of products facing a relative domestic shortage, or foreign speciality goods for everyday consumption.

Calculations by Bloomberg showed that the tariff cuts will affect almost $400bn (309bn) of foreign goods sold to China annually, out of a total import bill of $2tn. Last year Beijing announced a temporary cut in duties on 706 products.

The move comes amid expectations that Beijing and Washington are about to sign a phase one trade agreement under which the US will cut tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for greater market access for American farm products.

Trump said at the weekend: We just achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal and we will be signing it very shortly.

Agathe Demarais, global forecasting director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said Beijings decision to lower import tariffs was a positive step towards a de-escalation of global trade tensions.

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It also represents a positive signal ahead of the expected conclusion of a first-phase trade deal between the US and China.

By slashing tariffs, China seeks to boost slowing economic growth through a reduction in business and consumers costs. It also seeks to boost pork imports as African swine fever has decimated local production. Finally, China also reaffirms its free-trade stance, in sharp contrast with US protectionist rhetoric.

The list of products on which duties will be cut reflects the way in which Chinas rapid growth has led to a range of problems from pollution to obesity. Tariffs for some asthma and diabetes medications will be set at zero, the ministry said, noting that the increased purchases of foreign goods would be in line with the growing needs of the Chinese people.

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 zero in 2020 to support its hi-tech development.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/dec/23/china-cuts-tariffs-to-boost-growth-and-show-up-donald-trump