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.
US President Donald Trump is preparing to take aim at China's technology and telecommunications sectors, according to media reports on Tuesday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
rs/cmk (AFP, Reuters)