President Donald Trump once again ratcheted up the tension in his ongoing trade dispute with China on Thursday, threatening to slap tariffs on an additional $100 billion in imports from one of the United States’ largest trading partners.
These tariffs would come on top of separate duties on $50 billion in U.S. imports of Chinese products like motor vehicles and home appliances that the administration announced earlier this week.
China had responded to that announcement by releasing its own list of products worth roughly the same amount that it will target with duties if the Trump administration moves forward with the president’s course of action. That list of more than 100 items was heavy on agricultural commodities, especially soybeans. Beijing also said it would add 25 percent tariffs on U.S. exports like aircraft, automobiles and chemicals.
Trump said in a statement Thursday evening that he found China’s retaliation “unfair,” and, for that reason, he instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer “to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate … and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs.”
“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” Trump said. “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.”
Trump is “threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us,” Sasse said. “This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”
None of the U.S. tariffs aimed at getting China to change its intellectual property practices have taken effect. The Trump administration has laid out a consultative process that will prevent duties on the initial $50 billion worth of products from being formally implemented until late May, at the earliest. Beijing has also indicated that the implementation date for its retaliation will depend on when the U.S. government moves forward.
Potential tariffs on the additional $100 billion in imports from China that could be targeted will also be subject to a similar public comment process, Lighthizer said Thursday.
The administration previously imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from a broad range of countries, including China. Beijing also announced this week that it would be retaliating against those duties with penalties on 128 U.S. products worth roughly $3 billion.
Catherine Boudreau and Adam Behsudi contributed to this report.