US President Donald Trump is seeking to impose tariffs on up to US$60 billion of Chinese imports and will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, Reuters reports, citing two people who had discussed the issue with the Trump administration.
A third source who had direct knowledge of the administration’s thinking said the tariffs, associated with a “Section 301” intellectual property investigation, under the 1974 US Trade Act begun in August last year, could come “in the very near future”.
While the tariffs would be chiefly targeted at information technology, consumer electronics and telecoms, they could be much broader and the list could eventually run to 100 products, the news agency said.
Washington is targeting Chinese high-tech companies to punish them for China’s investment policies that effectively force US companies to give up their technology secrets in exchange for being allowed to operate in the country along with other allegations of intellectual property theft.
China runs a US$375 billion trade surplus with the United States. When President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser visited Washington recently, the administration pressed him to come up with a way of reducing that number.
While the tariffs on steel and aluminum, announced last week by Trump, are viewed as relatively insignificant in terms of imports and exports, moves to target China directly risk a direct and harsh response from Beijing.
The news website Politico earlier reported that the Office of the US Trade Representative had presented Trump with a package of US$30 billion in tariffs last week, but Trump told aides that this wasn’t high enough.
One business source who had discussed the issue with the White House said the figure had now grown to about US$60 billion, with a potentially wider array of products under consideration.
A second person, an industry lobbyist in Washington who is familiar with the administration’s thinking, said the process was being led by Peter Navarro, an avowed protectionist, who has accused American companies of conniving with the Chinese state, and by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who also favors tariffs as a tool.
Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the US House ways and means committee, stressed that Trump was serious about addressing the issue of intellectual property theft.
“He’s serious about calling their hand on this, and my understanding is they are looking at a broad array of options to do that,” Brady said.
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