US President Donald Trump today ramped up his trade war rhetoric with China, seeking USD 100 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese products. This is in addition to the proposed 25 per cent import tariffs worth USD 50 billion on some 1,300 Chinese products being imported into the US.
On April 3, the US Trade Representative (USTR) had announced the 25 per cent tariffs on imports from China as an initial means to obtain the elimination of policies and practices identified in its investigation. China retaliated by announcing similar import tariff on American products. Trump said his latest decision for additional tariffs was in response to China's retaliatory action.
"Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers. In light of China's unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether USD 100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs," Trump said in a statement here.
Accusing China of repeatedly engaging in practices to unfairly obtain America's intellectual property, Trump said the Chinese practices detailed in the investigation of the USTR had caused concern around the world. "China's illicit trade practices? ignored for years by Washington? have destroyed thousands of American factories and millions of American jobs," Trump said.
Trump has also instructed the secretary of agriculture, with the support of other members of his Cabinet, to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect American farmers and agricultural interests. "Notwithstanding these actions, the United States is still prepared to have discussions in further support of our commitment to achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade and to protect the technology and intellectual property of American companies and American people," Trump said.
The US president reiterated his America-first rhetoric and said he was seeking a level playing field around the world for American companies and workers. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer branded the latest presidential proposal as "an appropriate response" to China's recent threat of new tariffs. "In the light of such evidence (of USTR investigation), the appropriate response from China should be to change its behaviour, as China's government has pledged to do many times," he said.
"Unfortunately, China has chosen to respond thus far with threats to impose unjustified tariffs on billions of dollars in US exports, including our agricultural products," he said, adding that such measures would undoubtedly cause further harm to American workers, farmers, and businesses. Under these circumstances, Lighthizer said, the president was right to ask for additional appropriate action to obtain the elimination of the problems identified in USTR's report.
"Any additional tariffs proposed will be subject to a similar public comment process as the proposed tariffs announced on April 3, 2018. No tariffs will go into effect until the respective process is complete," Lighthizer said. Defending his decision against China, Trump told a business roundtable in West Virginia that before him, no president wanted to take on China.
"For many years, no president wanted to go against China, economically. And we're going to do it," he said. Trump said it was time the US did something to change the US-China business terms. "The US can't continue to to allow this to happen, where hundreds of billions of dollars is taken out of the US; where if they make a car, they sell it here, it's 2.5 per cent tax," said Trump.
"If we make a car and try and get it into China, number one, they won't take it. But if they did, it's 25 per cent tax. So they pay 2.5; we pay 25. They don't even want to take it. That doesn't sound so good. But it's all like that," he said. The US has a trade deficit of almost USD 500 billion with China.
Despite the ongoing trade war between the two countries, Trump claimed that he was on good terms with Chinese premier Xi Jinping and that the US would have a "fantastic long-term relationship" with China. "I have great respect for the President of China, President Xi. He's a friend of mine, and I'm a friend of his. And I like him a lot. But he's representing China, and I'm representing the USA. And it was time that we did something," said Trump. "But we have to get this straightened out. We have to have some balance. That goes for other countries and it goes for other places," he said.