President Donald Trump will unveil a $50 billion package of tariffs targeting Chinese imports this week in response to the country’s theft of US intellectual property and technological know-how, according to reports late on Wednesday, in a move that’s likely to spark retaliation from Beijing.
The US has accused China of distorting global markets by allowing its companies — including state-owned giants — to steal intellectual property from American firms, a charge Beijing denies.
The tariffs could hit China’s growing tech industry, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, according to wire reports. An official with the trade representative’s office told reporters US government investigators found, in the course of an investigation ordered by Trump last year, China is using laws that curb foreign ownership of companies to force American firms to share intellectual property with Chinese business partners.
News about the coming tariffs was criticized by dozens of business associations in the US, which said they could negatively impact supply chains and drive up the prices of consumer goods for American customers. Lighthizer has said the tariffs would minimize harm to US consumers.
US criticism of Chinese intellectual property theft is not new. But since his time as a presidential candidate, Trump has vowed to take a particularly tough line on China, which he sees as taking advantage of the US with unfair economic policies that have led to the loss of American manufacturing jobs.
The new tariffs, however, are sure to put greater pressure on diplomatic ties, as has been seen in the aftermath of Trump’s recent announcement that aluminum and steel entering the US would soon face new tariffs. Observers fear Trump’s desire for individual trade deals and tariff rates outside of the World Trade Organization’s structure could lead to a trade war, which economists have warned could have broad ramifications for the global economy.