Trump wants $275b in China tariffs despite talks

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump ordered aides last Thursday to proceed with tariffs on about US$200 billion (S$275 billion) more in Chinese products despite his Treasury Secretary's attempt to restart talks with Beijing to resolve the trade war, according to four people familiar with the matter.

But an announcement of the new round of tariffs has been delayed as the administration considers revisions based on concerns raised in public comments, the people said.

Mr Trump may be running low on products he can target without significant backlash from major US companies and consumers, two of the people said.

The threat of fresh tariffs roiled financial markets. US stocks erased gains, dropping to session lows, while the dollar strengthened versus the Chinese offshore yuan by the most in two weeks. Technology shares led declines, with Apple falling as much as 1.7 per cent. The iPhone-maker warned earlier this month that new tariffs could increase the cost of its products.

Mr Trump met his top trade advisers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, last Thursday to discuss the China tariffs the people said. Mr Mnuchin has led a recent overture to the Chinese to restart trade talks.

Mr Trump was asked during the meeting whether he was concerned about the impact of the new tariffs on negotiations with China. He responded that he was not, two of the people said.

The public comment period for a list of tariffs on about US$200 billion in Chinese goods closed earlier this month, and Mr Trump said the duties would be imposed "soon".

The threat of fresh tariffs roiled financial markets. US stocks erased gains, dropping to session lows, while the dollar strengthened versus the Chinese offshore yuan by the most in two weeks. Technology shares led declines, with Apple falling as much as 1.7 per cent.

The new round would be in addition to US$50 billion in Chinese goods that already face a 25 per cent duty.

The Chinese have retaliated with tariffs on an equivalent amount of US exports and have promised to match future rounds of US duties.

The White House has sought to pressure Beijing to reduce its trade surplus with America and protect intellectual property rights of US companies, which it says are abused in China.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 16, 2018, with the headline 'Trump wants $275b in China tariffs despite talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe