INTERNATIONAL.- The Trump administration has renewed its threat to place 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods in retaliation for what it says are China’s unfair trade practices. The White House also said Tuesday that it would place new restrictions on Chinese investment into the United States and limit U.S. exports of high-tech goods to China.
The threats come just over a week after trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies had eased, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying May 20 that the trade conflict was “on hold.”
Mnuchin’s comments followed a commitment by China to significantly increase its purchases of U.S. farm goods and energy products, such as natural gas. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to visit China on Saturday to negotiate the details of that agreement. Some trade experts said the tariff announcement is likely intended to strengthen Ross’s hand.
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Other analysts, however, say the newly confrontational stance may be intended to appease congressional critics of a deal the Trump administration made Friday that allowed Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. to stay in business. The tariff threat is unlikely to derail ongoing talks, they said.
“This is really about Congress,” said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “I don’t think it blows up a deal with the Chinese.” China’s Ministry of Commerce responded in a mild fashion Tuesday.
The Ministry said the White House’s announcement “is contrary to the consensus the two sides have previously reached,” according to China’s official news agency, Xinhua. The statement did not reiterate China’s own previous threats to impose $50 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.