Trump considers indefinite tariffs, investment restrictions against China

14 March, 2018, 20:13 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Kevin Frayer Getty Images

US President Donald Trump is seeking to impose tariffs on up to US$60 billion (RM234.2 billion) of Chinese imports and will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, a source who had discussed the issue with the White House said yesterday.

Trump has also demanded that Mexico and Canada renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in order to qualify for exemptions from his global tariff regime.

The Trump administration's decision to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports has drawn warnings from businesses and US trading partners that the measure could backfire, provoking a trade war without resolving the problems it's meant to address.

While Trump has called China "helpful" in dealing with North Korea, his 2016 campaign focused on pulling out of worldwide trade deals that he sees as detrimental to US interests.

While the tariffs would be chiefly targeted at information technology, consumer electronics and telecoms, they could be much broader and the list could eventually run to 100 products. "We don't comment on internal meetings, but no final decisions have been made on content or timing", said a White House official.

The heightened possibility of a trade war and Tillerson's departure reduced investor risk appetite, even as US inflation data released on Tuesday showed an annual core inflation of 1.8 percent, which met expectations and would have likely increased risk appetite under a different political climate.

But a trade war risks upending this arrangement.

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The administration also is considering imposing new limits on Chinese investment in the United States, which topped $29 billion a year ago, according to the Rhodium Group, a New York-based consultancy.

However, Trump has pushed forward with his agenda by slapping Chinese industries with harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States and insisting on giving preferential treatment to global allies based on favorable military and economic alliances.

"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", Mr Brady said.

Trump points to USA auto exports to Europe, saying they are taxed at a higher rate than European exports to the United States. The latest brinkmanship follows new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that are straining a transatlantic relationship already tested by disputes from climate change to Middle East policy.

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

"We are in contact with the USA counterpart to obtain more clarity as soon as possible and we have been told that the USTR will publish very soon on their website a more detailed outline of the procedures for the exclusions", she said. There had been a willingness to do something together on China. "You can't cooperate when you're getting whacked around", the person told Reuters.

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