Trade official says US weighs raising tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 per cent
The possible increase is intended ‘to encourage China to change its harmful policies,’ US trade representative says
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering raising proposed punitive tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 per cent, from 10 per cent.
“The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies,” Lighthizer said in a statement released by his office.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Lighthizer’s announcement, a senior administration official called the move a response to China’s refusal to address US complaints of unfair trading practices, particularly in the field of technology transfer.
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The official denied that any particular event spurred the president’s decision to call for more aggressive tariffs.
Last week China blocked the proposed multibillion-dollar acquisition by the US telecommunications giant Qualcomm of Dutch semiconductor manufacturer NXP.
“We gave them many, many opportunities over the course of a year to address our concerns,” the official said of China. “They responded by threatening us with their own tariffs. Those tariffs ultimately covered almost 40 per cent of US imports, and so the president has asked us to look into whether or not we may need to cover a comparable percentage of Chinese imports.”
China instituted 25 per cent tariffs on US$34 billion worth of US imports in July.
China’s foreign ministry issued a sharp warning on Wednesday that any “pressure and blackmail” by the US would be of no use, and would result in further retaliatory action.
“Should the US escalate the situation with further actions, China will certainly respond with countermeasures,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said during a news briefing ahead of the USTR announcement, adding that China would “resolutely safeguard” its legitimate and legal rights and interests.
“China has always advocated for the resolution of US-China trade tensions through dialogue and negotiation,” Geng said.
Another senior US administration official said on Wednesday that US trade officials were in contact with their Chinese counterparts.
“There are conversations about whether we are going to be able to have a fruitful negotiation or not,” the official said, but did not share any specific information about the nature or status of those conversations.