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Trump eyes massive tariffs on China

March 14, 2018

The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to impose tariffs targeting Chinese tech and telecommunications imports. Should Washington follow through on the move, it could spark harsh retaliation from Beijing.

An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem during a welcome ceremony for visiting U.S. President Donald Trump
Image: picture alliance/AP/A. wong

US President Donald Trump is preparing to take aim at China's technology and telecommunications sectors, according to media reports on Tuesday.

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Last week, the administration's top trade official presented the president with a $30 billion (€24.3 billion) per year tariff package on Chinese imports and Trump requested a higher number, sources told politics news site Politico.

Read moreWhy Congress, not the WTO, is best suited to rein in Trump on tariffs

According to the Reuters news agency, the tariffs would target up to $60 billion (€48.5 billion) per year of Chinese imports. A source told Reuters that the tariffs could come "in the very near future" and could include up to 100 products, also outside of the tech sector.

Read moreChina — Trade war with US would be disastrous

Intellectual property theft allegations

Washington's move to target Chinese firms comes amid allegations of intellectual property theft. The move would punish Chinese tech companies for having US companies give up their technology secrets in order to operate in China. 

Read moreFrom pillar to post, the world's messiest trade disputes

US House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady told reporters that Trump is serious about countering China's alleged 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.

EU threatens US with tariffs on popular products

Market concerns over trade war

European and US stocks fell on Tuesday, partly due to concerns about Chinese retaliation should Trump impose the tariffs.

The tariffs announced by the Trump administration last week on steel and aluminum are viewed as relatively insignificant in terms of imports and exports. Tariffs specifically targeting China's technology sector could cause trade war tensions to boil over.

Read moreOpinion — An economic nationalist bully in the White House takes on global trade

China currently has a $375 billion trade surplus with the US. The White House recently urged the top economic adviser of Chinese President Xi Jinping to come up with a plan for reducing that number.

Trump was elected on a protectionist agenda, and in the last year he has pulled the US out of the 14-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and started talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

US tariffs could spark trade war

rs/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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