US President Donald Trump will impose tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese imports to reduce the massive US trade deficit with China and retaliate against the alleged theft of American intellectual property.
Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday that would impose restrictions on Chinese imports and investment in the US, raising fears of a global trade war.
Before signing the measure, Trump blasted America’s multi-hundred billion dollar trade deficit with China and said the new action would be "the first of many."
"It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world. It’s out of control," Trump said. "We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on, which likewise is hundreds of billions of dollars."
Trump directed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to identify and publish a proposed list of products that could be subject to tariffs.
The tariffs and investment restrictions will be imposed under the US Trade Representative’s "Section 301" investigation into alleged misappropriation of US intellectual property by China.
The new import duties will target industrial sectors where "China has sought to acquire an advantage through the unfair acquisition or forced technology transfer from US companies," senior White House economic advisor Everett Eissenstat told reporters before Trump’s announcement.
The move, which comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs, has already been met with threats of retaliation from China.
The goods deficit with China alone rose 8 percent during Trump’s first year in office to a record $375 billion, or nearly half the total global gap between US imports and exports
The new measures are part of Trump’s so-called “America First” policy, which seeks to rewrite the rules of global commerce in favor of the US.
Trump has repeatedly blamed unfair trade deals and abusive practices by low-wage countries like China and Mexico for the massive US trade deficit and the loss of high-paying US factory jobs.