President Trump put China squarely in his crosshairs on Thursday, imposing tariffs on as much as $60 billion worth of Chinese goods to combat the rising threat from a nation that the White House has called “an economic enemy.”
The measures are Mr. Trump’s strongest trade action yet against a country that he says is responsible for thousands of lost American jobs and billions in lost revenues. Financial markets plunged on fears of a potential trade war between the world’s two largest economies, with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropping by 2.5 percent.
The White House said it was taking action in retaliation for China’s use of pressure and intimidation to obtain American technology and trade secrets. The measures include a significant change in Mr. Trump’s looming steel and aluminum tariffs that would aim them primarily at China.
After Mr. Trump announced the moves, China’s Ministry of Commerce said that it was proposing additional tariffs on 128 products from the United States, like nuts, wine and pork, that it valued at about $3 billion.
Xi Jinping hosted Donald Trump in Beijing in November 2017.
Image: Business Insider
The president’s actions fulfill his frequent campaign pledge to demand fairer trade deals with nations around the globe and to retaliate against trading partners if the United States does not secure better agreements.
Donald Trump's campaign focused on placing American interests first.
Image: The Nation
“We have one particular problem,” the president said before signing an order that will impose tariffs on hundreds of Chinese products, from shoes and clothing to consumer electronics. “We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on.”
The sanctions reflect a shift in relations between the two economic giants, which for years engaged in highly structured dialogues to try to reach agreement on economic and security issues. But the White House now views those dialogues — and the agreements they produced — as largely hollow promises by the Chinese.
Trump signed the executive order on Thursday.
Image: Times of Israel
The White House — along with many in the business community — believes the United States needs to strike back against China’s exploitation of its intellectual property, even if many question whether tariffs are the best tactic.
Mr. Trump said that he respected China’s president, Xi Jinping, and that China had been helpful in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs. But the president declared that the United States would no longer tolerate running a trade deficit of nearly $400 billion with China, its second-largest trading partner, after the European Union.
Fears of a trans-Pacific trade war reverberated through the world’s markets, with the stock prices for major exporters like Boeing and Caterpillar plunging more than 5 percent.
The Chinese Embassy in the United States issued a blunt statement, saying that “China does not want a trade war with anyone. But China is not afraid of and will not recoil from a trade war. China is confident and capable of facing any challenge. If a trade war were initiated by the U.S., China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures.”
Under the proposed Chinese countermeasures, American-produced fresh fruit, nuts, wine, seamless steel pipes and other goods would be hit by 15 percent tariffs, while another group of goods, including pork, would attract 25 percent tariffs.