President Donald Trump is following through with promises to hit China with new tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced today, escalating a trade war that is already hurting the U.S. agriculture sector.

The U.S. today is beginning a roughly two-month process of initiating the new tariffs that could go into effect as early as September, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters before the announcement.

The U.S. levied tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday, July 6, with a promise to bring that up to $50 billion. China announced an equivalent retaliation soon afterwards – an action that Trump had previously warned the Chinese against taking because it would result in the U.S. slapping tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Trump has promised to increase the tariffs yet again on another $200 billion in Chinese products, bringing the total to $450 billion, if China retaliates again.

The tariffs the U.S. launched on Friday were aimed at Chinese goods like machinery, tractors and airplane wings, but China hit back on U.S. ag goods with a 25 percent import tax on a wide variety of commodities like grains, oilseeds, meat and produce.

The USDA has pledged to make up for some of those Chinese tariffs by providing government assistance, but farm groups are fairly united in a desire to see the two countries resolve their differences and end the trade war. Comments from U.S. officials today make it appear that such a resolution is not imminent.

“For over a year, the Trump administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition,” Lighthizer said. “We have been very clear and detailed regarding the specific changes China should undertake.  Unfortunately, China has not changed its behavior – behavior that puts the future of the U.S. economy at risk. Rather than address our legitimate concerns, China has begun to retaliate against U.S. products. There is no justification for such action.”

Trump administration officials have said that the president will not relent unless China agrees to two things: an annual $200 billion decrease in China’s trade surplus with the U.S. and that Beijing provide assurances that China will stop appropriating U.S. intellectual property.

The USTR announcement today is already generating opposition from Capitol Hill.

“Although I have supported the administration’s targeted efforts to combat China’s technology transfer regime, tonight’s announcement appears reckless and is not a targeted approach,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement. “We cannot turn a blind eye to China’s mercantilist trade practices, but this action falls short of a strategy that will give the administration negotiating leverage with China while maintaining the long-term health and prosperity of the American economy.”


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