Trump Threatens Tariffs on $200 Billion in Chinese Goods, Escalating Trade War

President Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, November 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

President Trump threatened Monday to levy harsh tariffs on virtually all remaining untaxed Chinese imports if president Xi Jinping refuses a series of substantial trade concessions that would narrow China’s trade surplus relative to the U.S.

Trump has asked U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer to compile a list of $200 billion in Chinese exports to the U.S. to be hit with ten percent tariffs, according to a Monday statement. The announcement escalates already-dire trade negotiations as it would place almost all of the $505 billion in Chinese imports to the U.S. under tariffs.

“The trade relationship between the United States and China must be much more equitable,” Trump said. “The United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”

Beijing responded forcefully, accusing Trump of attempting to “blackmail” to China through extreme threats.

“If the U.S. loses its senses and publishes a new list, China will be forced to take comprehensive measures that are both strong in quantity and gravity and will fight back,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a Monday statement.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated Beijing’s willingness to retaliate during a daily press briefing Monday.

“We don’t want a trade war, yet we are not afraid of a trade war,” he said.

Trump’s threat came three days after the administration imposed 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports in order to compel a change in Chinese industrial regulations that require foreign companies to turn over proprietary technology in exchange for access to Chinese markets.

China responded proportionally, slapping tariffs won $50 billion in American goods.

Critics of Trump’s protectionist instincts, which have manifested in trade disputes with European and North American allies as well as rivals, argue consumers will pay for the tariff in the form of higher prices for smartphones, televisions and other electronics.

The first round of tariffs announced by both countries are expected to take effect July 6 but it remains unclear when exactly the tariffs announced Monday would take effect.

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