When President Trump initiated a trade war with China last year, the Chinese retaliated by increasing duties on US exports, while simultaneously decreasing the tariffs that other trading partners faced, creating a significant opportunity for active exporters.

Beijing has cut tariffs on competing products from other nations by an average of 6.7% since the start of 2018, compared to imposing 20.7% on US imports over the same period.

In China it is now 14% cheaper to buy something from Canada, Japan, Brazil, or Europe than it is to buy it from the United States, which is making it worthwhile for buyers and consumers to develop commercial relationships with new sources, which may not be reversed when the US and China finally reach an accord.

Analysts suggest that while President Trump has been threatening other countries with tariff and trade action, including the EU, the Chinese have been rolling out the red carpet for the rest of the world, offering improved access to their 1.4 billion consumers.

Until last month, it appeared that the US and China were edging towards a truce and a new economic deal, but the US accused China of reneging on earlier commitments and negotiations stopped.

The Trump administration has since announced plans to extend tariffs to all China exports to the US, prompting fears of an escalation in the dispute that has rocked the financial markets and clouded prospects for the global economy.

The Chinese and US leaders are expected to meet at the G20 summit in Japan this month and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said he planned to speak with the top Chinese negotiator by phone over the next couple of days.