U S President Donald Trump has slapped 25 per cent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods that are imported into the US, threatening to escalate what had primarily been a war of words between the worlds two largest economies into a full-blown trade war.
The US accused Beijing of intellectual copyright theft and said it will impose further tariffs if China retaliates, the New York Times reported.
The tariffs affect more than 800 types of products and are due to come into effect on July 6.
In a statement, Trump said the US would levy the tariffs on goods that contain “industrially significant technologies”, including those that relate to the country’s “Made in China” 2025 plan for dominating high-tech industries.
He said the tariffs were “essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs”.
“The US can no longer tolerate losing our technology and intellectual property through unfair economic practices.”
The President’s announcement to go ahead with imposing penalties on China is the latest twist by White House that has wavered between taking a tough stance on Chinese trade practices and declaring that the trade war was “on hold”.
Beijing said it will retaliate by imposing its own tariffs on a list of roughly $50 billion in American exports, a list likely to include agricultural products and manufactured goods.
“If the US takes unilateral protectionist measures and harms China’s interests, we will respond immediately and take necessary measures to firmly safeguard our legitimate rights,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said earlier on Friday.
The US President first announced that Washington would impose trade penalties on about $50 billion of Chinese goods in March. “We have a tremendous intellectual property theft problem,” Trump said at the time.
The list of Chinese products that the Trump administration proposed taxing in early April included flat-screen televisions, medical devices, aircraft parts and hundreds of additional products. It had previously said it would release a revised list of affected products by June 30 and put tariffs into effect shortly thereafter.
After China warned it would retaliate, Trump threatened tariffs on a further $100 billion of Chinese products. In mid-May, both sides announced a ceasefire after two rounds of trade negotiations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin subsequently declared the trade war “on hold”.
Ten days later, the White House abruptly said it would proceed with the tariffs, along with new limits on Chinese investments in the US. A further round of trade talks in Beijing earlier this month failed to yield any breakthroughs.