China keeps up pre-election trade pressure on Taiwan with tariff cut removals

BEIJING (Reuters) – China announced on Thursday the end of tariff cuts on some chemical imports from Taiwan, accusing the island of violating a trade agreement, as Beijing keeps up its pressure on Taipei ahead of elections next month.

Taiwan’s Jan. 13 presidential and parliamentary elections are taking place as China, which views the island as its own territory, has sought to force Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty claims.

Taiwan’s government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have repeatedly said China is trying to interfere in the vote, whether by military means or co-opting Taiwanese politicians, to ensure an outcome favourable to Beijing.

China’s Finance Ministry said that from Jan. 1 tariff cuts will be suspended for 12 products, including acrylic and p-xylene, citing “discriminatory prohibitions and restrictions” Taiwan imposed on Chinese exports in violation of a 2010 trade deal.

“It is hoped that Taiwan will take effective measures to lift trade restrictions on the mainland,” it said.

China last week said it had determined Taiwan had put up trade barriers in contravention of both World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and the 2010 trade deal.

Taiwan has called on China to stop its “political operations” with the trade probe, and said it is ready to discuss the issue with Beijing.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Michael Perry)