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US Announces Billions of Dollars in New Import Taxes on China


President Donald Trump signs an order imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, March 22, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US Announces Billions of Dollars in new Import Taxes on China
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United States President Donald Trump has signed an order calling for up to $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports.

The order seeks to punish China for, in his words, the theft of American “intellectual property,” including inventions and research. The action also calls for restrictions on the transfer of technology to China.

Robert Lighthizer is the U.S. Trade Representative. He said that intellectual property is an important part of the trade problem with China.

“Our view is that we have a very serious problem of losing our intellectual property which is really the biggest single advantage of the American economy, in my opinion, is our intellectual property and our ability to generate new intellectual property.”

Trump blamed the trade imbalance between the two countries for the loss of American jobs. He said, “It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world.”

China’s trade surplus with the U.S. last year was about $375 billion. Trump said that with the increased tariffs he hopes to cut the trade deficit with China by $100 billion.

The administration said the president will direct the U.S. trade office to publish a list of proposed tariffs for public comment within 15 days. The Treasury Department will also come up with a list of restrictions on Chinese investment.

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, China warned that it will take “all necessary measures” to defend itself. The actions raised the possibility of a trade war between the two biggest economies and sent global stock markets lower.

Grant Kimberley checks soybean plants on his farm, Sept. 2, 2016, near Maxwell, Iowa.
Grant Kimberley checks soybean plants on his farm, Sept. 2, 2016, near Maxwell, Iowa.

China reacts

Chinese officials say the U.S. trade deficit with China is the result of U.S. trade policy. Chinese officials note that the U.S. bars the export of many high-technology products.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the products traded have unequal values.

She said, “How many soybeans should China buy that are equal to one Boeing aircraft? Or, if China buys a certain number of Boeing aircraft should the U.S. buy an equal number of C919s (Chinese aircraft)?”

U.S. agriculture exports to China are almost $20 billion. Most of that number is shipments of soybean. If China were to target soybeans, it would hurt farm states like Iowa, the home state of U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad.

Boeing has said it expects China to buy aircraft worth $1.1 trillion by 2036. But China is also developing its own C919 passenger plane.

The Chinese foreign ministry added that it hopes to hold useful talks with the U.S. Hua said the goal is to reach what she called “a win-win solution” to settle trade issues.

A worker processes panda soft toys for export to American and European markets at a factory in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, October 9, 2017.
A worker processes panda soft toys for export to American and European markets at a factory in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, October 9, 2017.

Concerns over a trade war increase

Mary Lovely is an expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. She told the AP the possible tariffs are “a very big deal.” She said, “The Chinese see them as a major threat and do not want a costly trade war.”

American businesses, including Walmart, Apple and other technology companies, also oppose a trade war. Forty-five American trade associations warned that tariffs will raise the price of goods for Americans, hurt jobs and financial markets.

Scott Kennedy is with the Centers for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He told VOA, over the short-term, that is true. But, if such a policy could get China to reduce its barriers to trade, American buyers and businesses would gain while increased trade would also be good for China.

Trump said Thursday’s action would be “one of many.” The U.S. recently placed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. Some countries, including Canada and Mexico, are not subject to the new taxes.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Steve Herman reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional AP and Reuters material. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

intellectual property –n. property such as inventions, research and media that carry rights for the owner to use, sell or gain from the property

transfer –v. to hand over, to move from one place to another

tremendous –adj. very much

unilateral –adj. something done by only one side

obligations –n. things required by rule or law

tariffs –n. taxes on imported or exported good or services

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