By Larry Dreiling
In the aftermath of his calling for $50 billion in tariffs against China, President Donald Trump instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider an additional $100 million in tariffs against China.
“China’s illicit trade practices—ignored for years by Washington—have destroyed thousands of American factories and millions of American jobs,” Trump said in a statement. “On April 3, 2018, the USTR announced approximately $50 billion in proposed tariffs on imports from China as an initial means to obtain the elimination of policies and practices identified in the investigation.
“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers. In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs. I have also instructed the Secretary of Agriculture, with the support of other members of my Cabinet, to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests.”
The Trump statement added that notwithstanding these actions, the United States is still prepared to have discussions in further support of its commitment to achieving free, fair and reciprocal trade and to protect U.S. technology and intellectual property.
“Trade barriers must be taken down to enhance economic growth in America and around the world. I am committed to enabling American companies and workers to compete on a level playing field around the world, and I will never allow unfair trade practices to undermine American interests,” Trump said.
Lighthizer responded in a statement supporting Trump’s directive, saying, “President Trump is proposing an appropriate response to China’s recent threat of new tariffs. After a detailed investigation, USTR found overwhelming evidence that China’s unreasonable actions are harming the U.S. economy.
“In the light of such evidence, the appropriate response from China should be to change its behavior, as China’s government has pledged to do many times. Economies around the world—including China’s own—would benefit if China would implement policies that truly reward hard work and innovation, rather than continuing its policies that distort the vital high-tech sector.
“Unfortunately, China has chosen to respond thus far with threats to impose unjustified tariffs on billions of dollars in U.S. exports, including our agricultural products. Such measures would undoubtedly cause further harm to American workers, farmers and businesses. Under these circumstances, the president is right to ask for additional appropriate action to obtain the elimination of the unfair acts, policies and practices identified in USTR’s report.”
Any additional tariffs proposed will be subject to a similar public comment process as the proposed tariffs announced on April 3 and no tariffs will go into effect until the respective process is complete.
Meanwhile, during a meeting with students and leaders at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told them farmers would be protected if the tariffs went through.
“The president wants me to assure you and others that…we’re going to use the resources of the USDA and the federal government to make sure the farmers aren’t victimized,” Perdue told Central State student Zachary Huff, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News.
Perdue did not go into detail about what the federal government would do to shield farmers from tariffs, instead saying “(In) a trade war, you don’t necessarily tell the opponent everything you’re going to do.”
Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].