WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump signed an order Thursday that paves the way for imposing tariffs on as much as $60 billion worth of Chinese imports to punish Beijing for what he said is the theft of American technology and Chinese pressure on US companies to hand it over. “It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world,” Trump said of the US-China trade imbalance, blaming it for lost American jobs.
He said his action would make the country stronger and richer. China has already warned that it will take “all necessary measures” to defend itself, raising the prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
The White House said Thursday that Trump would direct the Office of the US Trade Representative to publish a list of proposed tariffs for public comment within 15 days. USTR has already identified potential targets: 1,300 product lines worth about $48 billion. The president is also asking Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to come up with a list of restrictions on Chinese investment.
Financial markets skidded Thursday on the risk of growing commercial conflict between the US and China and the possibility that China will impose retaliatory tariffs on US products.
Dozens of industry groups sent a letter last weekend to Trump warning that “the imposition of sweeping tariffs would trigger a chain reaction of negative consequences for the US economy, provoking retaliation; stifling US agriculture, goods, and services exports, and raising costs for businesses and consumers.”
The administration moves on Thursday mark the end of a seven-month US investigation into the hardball tactics China has used to challenge US supremacy in technology, including, the US says, dispatching hackers to steal commercial secrets and demanding that US companies hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market. The administration argues that years of negotiations with China have failed to produce results. Agencies