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Trump eyes tariffs on up to $60 billion Chinese goods; tech, telecoms, apparel targeted


By and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON/(Reuters) - U.S. is seeking to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports and will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, two people who had discussed the issue with the said on Tuesday.

A third source who had direct knowledge of the administration's thinking said the tariffs, associated with a "Section 301" intellectual property investigation, under the 1974 U.S. Trade Act begun in August last year, could come "in the very near future."

While the tariffs would be chiefly targeted at information technology, and telecoms, they could be much broader and the list could eventually run to 100 products, this person said.

The declined to comment on the size or timing of any move.

In Beijing, Chinese said Sino-U.S. trade relations should not be a zero-sum game, and that the two countries should use "constructive" means to manage tension.

"We have said many times that resolutely opposes any kind of unilateral protectionist trade measures," Lu told reporters.

"If the takes actions that harm China's interests, will have to take measures to firmly protect our legitimate rights."

Trump is targeting Chinese companies to punish for its investment policies that effectively force U.S. companies to give up their in exchange for being allowed to operate in the country, as well as for other IP practices considers unfair.

The is also considering imposing investment restrictions on Chinese companies over and above the heightened national security restrictions, but details on these were not immediately known. A did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But lobbyists in expressed concern that Trump's ambitious plan would also include other labor-intensive consumer goods sectors such as apparel, footwear and toys.

Higher tariffs on these products would "hurt American families," said Hun Quach, a for the

"We're not talking about fancy cashmere sweaters, we're talking about cotton T-Shirts and jeans and shoes that kids wear for back-to-school," she added. "Alarm bells are ringing."

China runs a $375 billion trade surplus with the and when Xi Jinping's top visited recently, the administration pressed him to come up with a way of reducing that number.

Trump came to office on a promise to shield American workers from imports and his first action as was to pull the out of the 12-country trade deal.

His administration is in the midst of negotiations to revamp the (NAFTA) and last week announced the imposition of tariffs on and aluminum imports.

While the tariffs on and aluminum, announced last week by Trump, are viewed as relatively insignificant in terms of imports and exports, moves to target China directly risk a direct and harsh response from

"If this is serious, the Chinese will retaliate. The key question is, does the U.S. retaliate against that retaliation," said Derek Scissors, a China trade expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a pro-business think tank.

That would spook stock markets, but Scissors said that the more serious the conflict became, the worse China's position would become, due to the importance of its U.S. trade surplus.

"Their incentive to negotiate is to head us off from a major trade conflict."


The website earlier reported that the U.S. Trade Representative's office had presented Trump with a package of $30 billion in tariffs last week, but Trump told aides that this was not high enough.

One Washington business source who had discussed the issue with the said the figure had now grown to about $60 billion, with a potentially wider array of products under consideration.

A second person, who is an in Washington familiar with the administration's thinking, said the process was being led by Peter Navarro, an avowed protectionist, and by U.S. Robert Lighthizer, who also favors tariffs as a tool to rebalance trade.

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, U.S. House stressed that Trump was serious about addressing the issue of intellectual property theft with China.

"He's serious about calling their hand on this, and my understanding is they are looking at a broad array of options to do that," Brady said.

U.S. business groups, while uneasy about triggering Chinese retaliation, have increasingly pressed Washington to take action on Beijing's industrial policies, such as market access restrictions and the "Made in China 2025" plan, which aims to supplant with domestic ones.

Shortly after Trump took office, the & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a U.S. whose board includes representatives from top companies such as Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Google, and Intel, called for coordinated international pressure on

While complaints about China's abuse of intellectual property rights are not confined to the United States, Trump's global and aluminum tariffs announced last week under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 complicate U.S. efforts to recruit allies to put pressure on China.

A senior European in Beijing said China would be relieved to see and Washington at odds over the metals tariffs.

"China's biggest worry has always been joint push-back from its major Western trading partners," the said.

A China-based business source with knowledge of discussion among senior European officials said there had been a "clear effort" by the over the past six months to introduce a coordinated approach to Chinese industrial policy, but that Trump's metals tariffs had undermined European support.

"Senior officials had directly approached European leaders at a senior level. There had been a willingness to do something together on China. That's impossible right now. You can't cooperate when you're getting whacked around," the person told

(Additional reporting by and Roberta Rampton, and in BEIJING; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Clive McKeef, and Clarence Fernandez)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 14 2018. 14:52 IST