The Trump administration said it would proceed with tariffs on $50bn in Chinese imports and broader investment restrictions, rebooting a trade war with Beijing that it claimed was “on hold” less than two weeks ago. The new tariffs, to be formally unveiled in two weeks, are intended to punish Beijing for what President Donald Trump has argued is a systematic campaign by China to steal US technology.
The announcement came as Wilbur Ross, US commerce secretary, prepared to lead a delegation to Beijing this week and as critics in Congress assailed Mr Trump for having declared that he would soften punishment on ZTE, the Chinese telecoms group, after a request by President Xi Jinping. The measures had first been promised in March when Mr Trump announced the results of an investigation into China’s intellectual property practices and what foreign businesses and the US say is the common practice of forcing investors to hand over technologies as a cost of entry to the Chinese market.
But Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, subsequently declared this month that the US and China had agreed to put their trade war “on hold” while they negotiated a package of new Chinese purchases and other measures. In a statement, China’s commerce ministry said it was surprised by the White House’s statement and called it “contrary to the consensus” reached during a meeting in Washington earlier this month that led to Mr Mnuchin’s statement.