The Trump administration has renewed its threat to place 25-percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods in retaliation for what it says are China’s unfair trade practices.
The White House also said Tuesday that it would restrict Chinese investment into the United States and limit U.S. exports of high-tech goods to China.
The announcement intensifies the high-stakes trade confrontation between the world’s two largest economies. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to visit Beijing on Saturday for a round of talks.
The White House said it will target the tariffs on cutting-edge technologies, including those that China has said it wants to dominate as part of its “Made in China 2025” program. Under that program, China aims to take a leading role in developing technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and electric cars.
The list of imports that will be covered will be announced by June 15, the White House said, and the tariffs will be imposed “shortly thereafter.” The list will be based on a previous compilation of 1,300 goods released in April that will be narrowed based on public comments the administration has received.
Analysts said the renewal of the tariff threat could disrupt Ross’ planned talks in China this weekend. Ross’ trip was originally intended to work out the details of a vague promise by China May 19 to increase its purchases of U.S. farm goods and natural gas.
“If Beijing was under the impression that Trump’s $50 billion of tariffs were actually on hold, they may find this confusing,” Chad Bown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said. “It could very well complicate Wilbur Ross’ visit.”
Trump has bemoaned the massive U.S. trade deficit with China — $337 billion last year — as evidence that Beijing has been complicit in abusive trading practices.
The United States has also long complained that China forces U.S. companies to share technology with Chinese firms as part of joint ventures in order to gain access to its market.
Trump has frequently focused on the trade deficit, urging China to boost its imports and lower the gap by $200 billion, while China has refused to agree to any dollar amounts.
Many experts and U.S. companies, however, warn that China’s efforts to protect its high-tech industries and capture U.S. technology represent the larger threat.