Trump to discuss tariffs on Chinese imports with aides

Gladys Abbott
June 15, 2018

President Donald Trump has approved a plan to impose punishing tariffs on tens of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods as early as Friday, a move that could put his trade policies on a collision course with his push to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

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"We made clear that if the USA rolls out trade sanction including the imposition of tariffs, all outcomes reached by the two sides in terms of trade and economy will not come into effect", said a foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang.

Trump has pledged to enforce fair and reciprocal trading relations with China, with the US bilateral trade in goods deficit having reached $375 billion past year, and amid long-running complaints of what foreign companies see as forced technology transfers and market restrictions.

Another official said a draft document showed the new list would still be close to US$50 billion, with about 1,300 product categories, but both the dollar amount and quantity of products were still subject to change.

The Trump administration is preparing to release a refined list of Chinese products to be hit with tariffs that hones in on technologies where China wants to establish itself as a leader, according to five people familiar with the matter.

Although Pompeo was in Beijing to debrief the Chinese on the Singapore summit, the trade friction was never far from the surface.

But while strong words have been said within the Chinese media, the government has made it clear that its willing to engage with the United States on trade issues.

"The first choice is cooperation and mutual benefit".

Pompeo said the USA deficit with China was still too high, but that they had good talks.

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China vowed to "immediately" retaliate to U.S. tariffs on Friday as Washington moved closer to imposing duties that could trigger a trade war. "If there are not tariffs, it will be because the president has decided that he's not ready to implement tariffs", a person familiar with the administration's deliberations told Reuters. They are part of Trump's decision to go forward with "pretty significant" tariffs, an administration official said on Thursday.

Press officials at the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative's office declined to comment on the tariff list plans.

Trump told Fox News in an interview aired on Wednesday that he was "very strongly clamping down on trade" with China.

The US is scheduled on Friday to release an updated list of Chinese tariff targets.

"[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un understands the urgency of the timing of completing this denuclearization and understands we must do this quickly", Pompeo said.

The administration's trade hawks, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, have advocated a tougher approach to address U.S. allegations that China has misappropriated American intellectual property through joint venture requirements, state-backed acquisitions of U.S. technology firms and outright theft.

He did not specifically mention the tariffs and added that he had "a very good relationship with President Xi [Jinping] of China". "They see the U.S.is isolated and the president as easily distracted".

The US trade deficit with China was $336 billion in 2017.

On Thursday, a Commerce Ministry spokesman said some Chinese exporters are rushing to fill orders due to concern about possible trade risks.

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