Trump’s China tariffs could be imposed in June

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If the US moves ahead with tariffs, China has threatened to retaliate with tariffs on US items such as soybeans

The White House has said it will impose 25% tariffs on $50bn worth of Chinese imports “shortly” after mid-June.

Critics had accused the administration of going soft on China after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said tariffs were on hold while the two sides continue trade talks.

The latest talks focus on US claims of intellectual property theft by China.

But the White House said on Monday that a final list of imports slated for tariffs will be published by 15 June.

Officials published a first draft of the list this spring with about 1,300 items, including medical devices and industrial machinery, triggering a period for comments and feedback.

“The final list of covered imports will be announced by June 15, 2018, and tariffs will be imposed on those imports shortly thereafter,” the administration said in a statement.

The White House also said it plans to announce new measures to restrict Chinese investment “related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology” by 30 June. Those would also be implemented “shortly thereafter”.

Where did this start?

The tariffs and investment restrictions, as well as a case brought by the US against China before the World Trade Organisation, are the outcome of an investigation launched last year into intellectual property practices in China.

The US is pushing China to remove tariffs on foreign companies and stop practices that allegedly encourage transfer of intellectual property to Chinese companies, such as requirements that foreign firms share ownership with local partners to access the Chinese market.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to travel to China this week for another round of discussions.

However, the administration is torn between groups worried about a trade war and hardliners calling for stronger action to counter the competitive threat posed by state-subsidised Chinese firms.

On Monday, Chuck Schumer, who leads Democrats in the Senate, praised the plans.

He said: “While obviously more details are needed, this outline represents the kind of actions we have needed to take for a long time, but the president must stick with it and not bargain it away.”

A round of talks in Washington in May ended with a pledge by the Chinese to buy more US agricultural and energy products, but few firm commitments.

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement and the US moves forward with tariffs, Chinese officials have said they plan to retaliate with tariffs of their own on US exports such as soybeans.

The White House said on Monday: “Discussions with China will continue on these topics, and the United States looks forward to resolving long-standing structural issues and expanding our exports by eliminating China’s severe import restrictions.”