In a move likely to further inflame global trade tensions, President Donald Trump has directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider raising the rate of proposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports.
Lighthizer said Trump directed him to consider increasing the proposed tariff rate on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent from the previously announced 10 percent.
“The Trump Administration continues to urge China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition,” Lighthizer said. “We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake.”
He added, “Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.”
The directive announced by Lighthizer on Thursday confirms media reports about the increased tariff rate published on Wednesday.
Lighthizer claimed the possible rate increase is intended to provide the administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behavior.
China responded by reiterating its threat to retaliate, with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce declaring the communist country fully prepared to defend its dignity and the interests of its people.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of “blackmail” and warning of inevitable countermeasures if the U.S. takes further escalatory steps.
The latest news comes on the heels of Tuesday’s report from Bloomberg indicating the U.S. and China are trying to restart trade talks.
Citing two people familiar with the effort, Bloomberg said representatives for U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He are having private conversations.
The two people cautioned that a specific timetable, the issues to be discussed and the format for talks aren’t finalized, Bloomberg said.
Lighthizer said the U.S. remains ready to engage with China in negotiations to address unfair trade practices such as forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft.
Last month, the U.S. imposed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, leading China to retaliate by imposing tariffs on $34 billion worth of U.S. exports.
by RTTNews Staff Writer
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