USA steps up China trade spat with $200bn new tariffs

China urges domestic firms to boost non American imports as trade war with US escalates

Fabian Bimmer Reuters

The Trump administration is readying tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese imports, ranging from burglar alarms to mackerel, escalating a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

Administration officials said the tariff fight is aimed at forcing China to stop stealing American intellectual property and to abandon policies that effectively force USA companies to surrender their trade secrets in return for access to the Chinese market. The measures are subject to a series of hearings and a public comment period. "We can not turn a blind eye to China's mercantilist trade practices, but 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".

President Donald Trump vowed to hit back after China retaliated for the first round of 25% tariffs on $34 billion worth of imports that Washington imposed last week. The administration says its tariffs are created to punish China for what it calls unfair trade practices, theft of intellectual property, and "forced technology transfers".

"For many years, China has pursued abusive trading practices with regard to intellectual property and innovation", Mr. Lighthizer said in a statement on Tuesday.

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The list covers some $200 billion in Chinese exports that could be hit by a 10 percent tariff.

The goal is to bring the total amount of Chinese imports up to 40 per cent of the total imported from the Asian power, since the USA products hit by Beijing's retaliation represent that share of exports, an official told reporters in a conference call.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association said new tariffs on Chinese imports would punish American families by driving up prices.

But Trump has said continuously that China has taken advantage of the U.S. economy, and he has vowed to hit almost all the country's products with tariffs, as much as $450 billion.

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David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron, said the pressure on Mr. Trump will mount as the economic pain spreads from affected companies to be more widely felt by consumers.

The move comes just days after the USA and China imposed tit-for-tat tariffs of $34bn on the other countries' goods.

"Rather than address our legitimate concerns, China has begun to retaliate against USA products".

More than 6,031 product lines are affected by the proposed tariffs, including seafood, fruits and vegetables, grains, tobacco, auto rearview mirrors and burglar alarms.

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