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Chinese spacecraft face steep new U.S. tariffs unveiled by the Trump administration. The same goes for “turbojet” engines and large airliners like the Comac C919.
The only problem: The U.S. doesn’t import any of these items, and the Chinese industries creating them are just beginning to establish themselves on the global stage. The list of newly taxed items appears aimed at years, or decades, into the future when China is expected to emerge as a threat to Boeing Co. and Airbus SE, said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia.
For now, the measures billed as protecting U.S. trade are likelier to harm aerospace commerce between the two nations that’s already heavily weighted in America’s favor — by about 17 to 1 — thanks to Boeing’s booming aircraft sales to China’s rapidly growing airlines.
“There’s only one risk: retaliation,” Aboulafia said.
Boeing shares dipped 2 percent to $355.36 at 12:50 p.m. Friday in New York on the trade war concerns. The performance was the second-worst in the 30-member Dow Jones Industrial Average, bumping the planemaker from the top perch that it has enjoyed for much of the past 18 months.
U.S. aerospace exports to China totaled $16.3 billion last year, while imports came to only $956 million in parts, according to Teal Group analysis of International Trade Commission data.
That favorable balance could shrink if China expands its levies on the 737 jetliner, the biggest source of profit for Boeing, which is the largest U.S. exporter.
Boeing said in an emailed statement that it’s assessing the impacts of the U.S. tariffs and “any reciprocal action” from China. “We will continue to engage with leaders in both countries to urge a productive dialogue to resolve trade differences,” the company said.
China warned in March that it would respond to U.S. threats with 25 percent tariffs on U.S. aircraft weighing in the range of 15,000 to 45,000 kilograms when empty. That category included the largest Gulfstream luxury jets and older and smaller 737 models, but stopped just shy of penalizing the 737 Max 8 — Boeing’s best-selling new model.
“That was a very unambiguous shot across the bow: Go no further,” Aboulafia said. A slight bump up in the Chinese weight restrictions would clip Max 8 sales in Asia’s largest aviation market, causing “very clear damage to the U.S. There goes your 17-to-1 trade advantage.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.