Trump in an interview last week showed no sign of backing down. Photo: AP

INTERNATIONAL – Some of the US’s most prominent technology companies and retailers made a last-minute push to convince US President Donald Trump to reverse course on a plan to impose tariffs on $200 billion (R3 trillion) in Chinese imports.

Members of the public had until Thursday to comment on the administration’s plan to slap tariffs on everything from bicycles and baseball gloves to digital cameras, paving the way for Trump to announce the tariffs as early as Friday.

Trump in an interview last week showed no sign of backing down, repeating his long-standing complaint that China has taken advantage of the US and its leaders for decades. “It’s time to stop. We can’t let this happen,” the president said.

“We think there’s a high likelihood it happens sometime soon,” said Josh Kallmer, executive vice president for policy at the Information Technology Industry Council, referring to levies on $200bn in goods. “It’s becoming a lot more difficult for the administration to do what it said it’s trying do, which is minimising harm to consumers.”

The US trade representative’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Tariff Plea

On Thursday, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and other technology companies sent a letter to US trade representative Robert Lighthizer urging the administration to avoid imposing more tariffs. By increasing duties on telecommunications networking gear, the administration would raise the cost of accessing the Internet and slow the roll-out of next-generation wireless technologies, the companies said.

Manufacturers and small and mid-sized firms, in particular, cannot quickly adjust and the tariffs imposed so far had not led to any meaningful concessions, a coalition of the National Retail Federation and 150 organissations said in separate comments to Lighthizer. The administration should cease further tariffs actions and give another shot at talks for a trade deal with with China, it said.

“Tit-for-tat tariffs are counterproductive and so far have only produced increased costs for American businesses, farmers, importers, exporters and consumers,’’ the coalition said.

The latest installment of tariffs would bring to $250bn the total value of Chinese goods hit with duties, covering nearly half of all imports into the U.S. last year. Beijing has threatened to retaliate with duties on $60bn in US products.

China will be forced to retaliate if the U.S. ignores resistance in public hearings and imposes additional tariffs, said Gao Feng, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman, at a regular briefing on Thursday in Beijing.

The trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies shows little sign of abating, roughly two months after the U.S. imposed its first round of tariffs on Chinese goods, and negotiations to defuse the tensions have stalled. The International Monetary Fund has warned that a trade war could undermine the strongest global upswing in years.