How we got here

With all the recent hostilities, it’s easy to forget that China and the United States have been top trading partners for years.

In 2015, China overtook Canada as the United States’ largest trading partner, boasting nearly $500 billion in total imports and exports, about 15 percent of total U.S. trade. The United States has been China’s top trading partner since the 1990s.

The period leading up to this week has been “very significant,” said Mary Lovely, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and economics professor at Syracuse University. What happens Friday will “represent a fundamental retreat by the leader of the global trading system,” she said. “It will be seen as a turning point.” Here is an overview of recent major events:

Jan. 22: Trump imposes a tax on solar panels — a key Chinese export. In his first major trade-related move of the year, he introduced tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. For solar panels, the tax will start at 30 percent for the first year before falling to half of that over four years. China produces 65 percent of the world’s solar modules.

March 1: Trump hikes tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. After months of threatening to do so, Trump raises import taxes on steel and aluminum by 25 and 10 percent.

April 2: China issues tariffs on $2.4 billion in U.S. exports. This list of 128 goods includes agricultural products such as pork, which would disproportionately affect U.S. farmers.

April 3: The Trump administration retaliates, unveiling a list of 1,300 Chinese goods that could be hit with 25 percent tariffs.

April 4: China responds by producing its own list of 106 American goods, including soybeans, cars and airplanes, that could be subject to tariffs of 25 percent.

April 16: U.S. Commerce Department bans exports to Chinese telecom company ZTE.

May 13: In an about-face, Trump tweets that U.S. will help to revive ZTE.

June 7: Trump administration eases ban on ZTE.

June 15: Trump announces 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of Chinese goods. China responds with a targeted retaliation.

June 18: Trump threatens to impose tariffs on additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China calls Trump’s statement “blackmail.”

June 27: Trump calls on Congress to “enhance” review process governing Chinese investment in U.S. technology.

Washington Post