US President Donald Trump has threatened to place tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese goods in a rapidly escalating trade dispute between the two countries.
The Trump administration announced last week it would place a 25 per cent tariff on $50bn of Chinese goods as punishment for alleged intellectual property theft. China responded by promising its own tariffs on an equivalent amount of American products.
On Monday, Mr Trump directed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to identify $200bn worth of Chinese goods on which to impose tariffs if Beijing carried out that promise.
The amount was twice the $100bn in tariffs the president had previously suggested for retaliation. He threatened to add another 10 per cent tariff on $200bn more products if China increased their tariffs again.
“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” the president said in a statement. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong.”
He added: “But the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”
Experts have warned of a possible trade war as Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping go back and forth on the issue. Many of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans have criticised the tariffs, claiming they will hurt American businesses.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, urged the administration to focus on China’s “discriminatory and market-distorting practices” after the tariff announcement last week.
“Ill-conceived trade actions that weaken the American economy, alienate allies, and invite retaliation against American businesses, farmers and ranchers, undermine our nation’s ability to successfully confront China’s unfair trade policies,” Mr Hatch said in a statement.
Mr Trump was met with similar criticism after announcing tariffs on steel and aluminium from the European Union, Canada and Mexico last month. The move shocked the US allies, which all said they would impose tariffs of their own on US goods.
Mexico has since placed tariffs on $3bn worth of American products like pork, steel, and cheese. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced tariffs on $12.8bn worth of US goods this month, and the European Union announced tariffs on $3.4bn worth of US imports like steel, bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries, and orange juice.
Most of the states hardest hit by the new tariffs are those that supported Mr Trump in the 2016 election, experts have said.