Donald Trump has instructed the US trade representative to consider slapping $100bn in additional tariffs on Chinese goods in an escalating standoff over trade.
Trump said in a statement on Thursday that the further tariffs were being considered “in light of China’s unfair retaliation” against earlier US trade actions. He added that the US trade representative had determined that China “has repeatedly engaged in practices to unfairly obtain America’s intellectual property”.
The White House said Trump had instructed the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the agency responsible for developing and recommending trade policy, to consider whether the additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify which products they should apply to.
He’s also instructed his secretary of agriculture “to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests”.
Trump argues China’s trade practices have led to the closure of American factories and the loss of millions of American jobs.
The move comes a day after China issued a $50bn list of US goods including soybeans and small aircraft for possible tariff hikes. That itself was 11 hours after the White House announced a list of 1,333 Chinese imports for punitive tariffs of 25%.
The tit-for-tat has rattled stock markets on worries over a full-blown trade war between two of the world’s largest economies.
Last month, the US president claimed that “trade wars are good, and easy to win”.
And on Wednesday, Trump sought to play down concerns, saying on Twitter: “We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the US. Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!”
He added: “When you’re already $500 Billion DOWN, you can’t lose!”