Just a little more than a week ago the U.S. and Chinese relationship seemed to be on track to repair itself after both countries had hit each other with billions of dollars of tariffs. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said the Trump administration was “putting the trade war on hold.” Mnuchin’s words came a day after the two countries wrapped up a round of talks in Washington and issued a joint statement to declare that China would seek to address U.S. concerns about protection of intellectual property and reduce the U.S. trade deficit by importing more U.S. goods.

But on Tuesday the White House took China by surprise, announcing that it was moving forward with a plan to hit the country with $50 billion worth of new tariffs to punish it for intellectual property theft. Trump, in a memorandum, said the tariffs would be aimed at industrial technology products and a detailed list would be unveiled June 15. Tariffs will be imposed on those imports shortly thereafter.

That’s could have a significant effect on the U.S. agriculture sector because China has threatened to retaliate with a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans.

It also throws the two countries back on to trade-war footing, less than a week after Perdue predicted that the next round of talks would result in China agreeing to increase its ag imports from the U.S. by $25 billion.

Xinhua News Agency, a government-run organization, reported shock from China’s Commerce Ministry as well as resolve to hit back.

The Chinese ministry, Xinhua said, vowed to “defend the interests of Chinese people and the core interests of the country” from U.S. sanctions.

The new aggressive posture by the U.S. is a bad development, said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue.

“The administration’s decision to impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products is in fact a tax on American consumers and will undermine the competitiveness of American companies, just as the administration’s steel tariffs have dramatically raised prices on steel in the United States,” he said. 

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