Trump threatens China with $100bn more in tariffs as response to Beijing’s ‘unfair retaliation’

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US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One, April 5, 2018. © Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Donald Trump has instructed the US Trade Representative to consider slapping China with an additional $100 billion in tariffs, accusing China of engaging in “unfair retaliation” instead of backing down to Washington’s pressure.

“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 $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’s statement, released by the White House, said.

Earlier this week Beijing announced that it was considering a mirror response, after the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a preliminary list of Chinese products, totaling some $50 billion, which it plans to slap with increased tariffs, under Trump’s order.

Despite Beijing’s repeated warnings that it would proportionally respond to any US moves and its calls for negotiations to avoid an escalation of a trade war, Donald Trump on Thursday decided to adopt a harsher policy. While instructing the USTR to consider new measures, he once again cited Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which had previously “determined that China has repeatedly engaged in practices to unfairly obtain America’s intellectual property.”

Somewhat downplaying this new round in the trade spat, which is likely to further impact global stock markets, Trump claimed that he was still ready to have discussions with China to achieve a “free, fair, and reciprocal trade and to protect the technology and intellectual property of American companies and American people.”

“Trade barriers must be taken down to enhance economic growth in America and around the world. I am committed to enabling American companies and workers to compete on a level playing field around the world, and I will never allow unfair trade practices to undermine American interests,” the White House statement reads.

The trade dispute between Washington and Beijing sharply escalated this week, after the Trump administration on Tuesday announced 25 percent tariffs on some 1,300 industrial, technology, transport, and medical products. In response, Beijing said that it would target 106 American products, including soybeans, automobiles, and chemicals. Both sets of measures have yet to come into effect.

Trump’s call for new measures against China comes a day after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that he expected that the United States and China would work out their trade differences. “I believe that the Chinese will back down and will play ball,” Kudlow commented.