In what appears to be an effort to ratchet up pressure on China to make greater concessions in ongoing trade negotiations, the Trump administration announced today it was moving forward with tariffs and other trade restrictions associated with us claims of intellectual property theft by Chinese enterprises.
A final list of the imports subject to the tariffs will be released June 15 and the investment restrictions will be announced on June 30.
Among those moves will be a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of tech goods imported from China, which the White House says involve technology stolen from US companies.
China later retaliated by levying tariffs against US exports.
With Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross heading to China this weekend for the next round of negotiations, there is some doubt about the administration's ultimate objective: Is it trying to change the nature of China's economic system, or does it simply want to improve the trade balance between the two countries?
Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods to combat what he has labeled unfair trade practices on the part of Beijing.
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"To protect our national security, the United States will implement specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology", the statement reads. The administration will also continue to litigate a case at the World Trade Organization over intellectual property protections.
The White House said China's industrial policies continued to be damaging to businesses both in the United States and around the world, and claimed that this year alone it had found "dumping or unfair subsidies on 13 different products".
China pressed the U.S.to give ZTE a break after the Commerce Department cut off the company from US suppliers to punish it for allegedly lying to American officials in a sanctions case.
Just nine days ago Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration would ditch plans to impose tariffs of 25 per cent on a string of products, expected to be tech-heavy, while talks continued between the two sides.
The White House has said it will impose 25% tariffs on $50bn worth of Chinese imports "shortly" after mid-June. Some, like Mr. Mnuchin, have focused on a potential compromise deal that would require China to buy huge amounts of American products while still forestalling the possibility of a trade war.
The trade spat between the top two economies of the world began last month with Trump imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into US.