PALM BEACH (Florida) • The Trump administration is planning to roll out its first concrete measures against China on trade, officials said, hardening its position towards the US' largest trading partner just as President Donald Trump welcomed his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Some time after Mr Xi leaves the United States, these officials said, Mr Trump plans to sign an executive order targeting countries that dump steel in the US market, an aggressive measure aimed mainly at China.
It is unclear exactly what the order would do or how harsh it would be, but it would be designed to begin to make good on Mr Trump's promise during the campaign to redress China's huge trade surplus with the US.
In addition, an official said on Thursday, the White House is moving out a top economic policy official, Mr Andrew Quinn, who had helped negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, former president Barack Obama's signature trade initiative.
Mr Quinn had become the subject of a battle between two camps in the White House: Economic nationalists, who wanted him out, and more mainstream backers of free trade, who defended him.
Taken together, these developments constituted a potentially significant victory for the hardliners, coming off a string of setbacks in their efforts to persuade the President to deliver on the most combative anti-free trade planks of his presidential campaign.
But the ultimate outcome of this policy debate is still far from clear, several officials said.
Mr Trump does not plan to confront Mr Xi with the most aggressive of his campaign threats: A 45 per cent tariff on Chinese goods.
Nor is the US likely to designate China a currency manipulator, something he promised to do as a candidate.