Trump Administration Readies Tariffs On $200 Billion Of Chinese Imports

Jul 11, 2018
Originally published on July 11, 2018 8:51 pm

Updated at 2:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday

The Trump administration has published a preliminary list of additional Chinese products that could be targeted with tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world's two biggest economies. The list covers some $200 billion in Chinese exports that could be hit by a 10 percent tariff. It's an extensive list of over 6,000 goods that include seafood, propane and toilet paper, among many other things.

These new suggested levies won't take effect until after a public comment period which runs through August.

This most recent maneuver follows a threat President Trump made last month, and comes days after the U.S. and China imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on more than $30 billion in goods. The administration says its tariffs are designed to punish China for what it calls unfair trade practices, theft of intellectual property, and "forced technology transfers." U.S. officials insist China's retaliatory tariffs are unjustified.

In a statement U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said these new additional tariffs are a result of "China's retaliation and failure to change its practices" after the first round of tariffs.

Later, Beijing responded to the latest tariff list, calling it a "totally unacceptable" escalation of Washington's trade war.

"To protect the core interests of the nation and its people, the Chinese government will be forced to impose necessary countermeasures," China's Commerce Ministry said in a statement without elaborating.

Chinese tariffs have already taken a toll on U.S. exports such as soybeans, which raises questions about the possible political repercussions President Trump could face from farmers who supported him in the 2016 election. The trade war could also jeopardize China's help in confronting North Korea's nuclear program.

Congressional Republicans were quick to register their disapproval with the Trump administration's newly proposed tariffs.

"Although I have supported the administration's targeted efforts to combat China's technology transfer regime, tonight's announcement appears reckless and is not a targeted approach," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chair of the Senate Finance committee. "This action falls short of a strategy that will give the administration negotiating leverage with China while maintaining the long-term health and prosperity of the American economy."

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The Trump administration's tariff strategy is meeting resistance both at home and abroad. In a moment, we'll hear the view from China. But now let's look at opposition coming from the U.S. Senate. It voted overwhelmingly today to challenge President Trump's power to impose tariffs singlehandedly. But the president shows no sign of changing course. On the contrary, he's threatening to escalate the trade battle. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Today's vote in the Senate was nonbinding, but the message was unmistakable. Senators voted 88 to 11 in favor of a measure saying lawmakers should play a bigger role in trade policy and not just leave it up to the president.


JEFF FLAKE: Let's be clear. This is a rebuke of the president's abuse of trade authority.

HORSLEY: Arizona Republican Jeff Flake is one of the co-sponsors of the measure. It was prompted in particular by the administration's use of an obscure national security statute to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. GOP Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has been warning since the tariffs were first floated back in March that they would drive up costs and prompt retaliation.


PAT TOOMEY: The harmful effects that we feared have already begun. We've got increased prices on U.S. consumers and a real threat to workers and businesses. I've heard from many Pennsylvania manufacturers that happen to rely for some portion of their products on imported steel, and now their products are no longer competitive.

HORSLEY: Senator Lamar Alexander pointed to an Electrolux plant in Tennessee that canceled a planned $250 million expansion because of the tariffs. Even though Electrolux makes appliances using domestic steel, its costs have gone up. Other manufacturers, like BMW and Harley-Davidson, have announced plans to shift production overseas to avoid retaliatory tariffs. Manufacturing has been enjoying a renaissance in the U.S., adding 285,000 jobs over the last year. But Linda Dempsey of the National Association of Manufacturers says Trump's tariffs could jeopardize that.

LINDA DEMPSEY: If you start seeing some of those shifts of parts of manufacturing supply chains outside of the United States, we're not going to bring that back.

HORSLEY: Despite such criticism, Trump is poised to double, triple or quadruple down on his tariff strategy. He's threatened to use the same national security statute to impose a levy on imported cars. And he's also ordered tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports to punish that country for its handling of U.S. technology secrets. Dean Garfield heads the technology trade group ITI, which has responded to the White House tariffs by saying thanks but no thanks.

DEAN GARFIELD: The administration has said that their effort is aimed at helping the tech sector. We appreciate the help, but we hope they stop.

HORSLEY: The administration isn't stopping though. Yesterday, officials released a list of another $200 billion in Chinese imports that could be targeted with tariffs in a couple of months - a list that Garfield says includes popular consumer categories such as textiles and electronics.

GARFIELD: So the administration has said they intend to take a targeted approach. Once you get to a number that size, it's hard to be surgical.

HORSLEY: Garfield, like many of Trump's critics in the business and political worlds, agrees with the administration that China has engaged in unfair trade practices and should be confronted. But they argue tariffs are blunt instruments just as likely to backfire and hurt the country wielding them. Better, they say, to go after China with an international coalition. But with his wide-reaching tariffs on steel, aluminum and now possibly automobiles, Trump has already alienated other countries in Europe, Asia and North America that might otherwise be allies in the trade war. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.