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Trump to decide whether to hit China with tariffs on about $50 billion of goods

donald trump state visit china
President Donald Trump at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9.

Pool/Thomas Peter via Associated Press


WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will meet with his top trade advisers on Thursday to decide whether to activate threatened tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods, a senior Trump administration official said.

Trump on Friday is due to unveil revisions to his initial tariff list targeting $50 billion of Chinese goods. People familiar with the revisions said the list would be slightly smaller than the original, with some goods deleted and others added, particularly in the technology sector.

Another administration official said that a draft document showed that the new list would still be close to $50 billion, with about 1,300 product categories, but that both the dollar amount and the quantity of products were still subject to change.

It remains unclear when Trump would activate the tariffs if he decides to do so. Several industry lobbyists told Reuters they expected the move to come as early as Friday, with publication of a Federal Register notice, or it could be put off until next week.

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Under the 1974 trade law that Trump invoked to pursue a tariff investigation into China’s intellectual-property practices, he could delay the activation by 30 days. He can also delay the tariffs by another 180 days if the US Trade Representative’s office finds that negotiations with China are yielding progress.

“The president’s trade team has recommended tariffs. If there are not tariffs, it will be because the president has decided that he’s not ready to implement tariffs,” a person familiar with the administration’s deliberations told Reuters.

But that recommendation came before Trump’s trip late last week to Canada for the G7 leaders summit and to Singapore for the nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump arrived in Washington early on Wednesday morning.

Trump told Fox News in an interview aired on Wednesday that he was “very strongly clamping down on trade” with China.

Asked how strong, Trump said: “Well, I think very strongly. I mean you’ll see over the next couple of weeks. They understand what we are doing.”

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Trump did not specifically mention the tariffs and added that he had “a very good relationship with President Xi (Jinping) of China.”

The move toward activating US tariffs on Chinese goods follows negotiations between US and Chinese officials centered on increased purchases by Beijing of American farm and energy commodities and cutting the US trade deficit with China.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this month met with Chinese officials in Beijing and brought back a Chinese proposal to purchase about $70 billion worth of additional commodities and manufactured goods. But that offer has not been accepted by Trump, people familiar with the matter said.

The administration’s trade hawks, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, have been pushing for a tougher approach to the negotiations to address US allegations that China has misappropriated American intellectual property through joint-venture requirements, state-backed acquisitions of US technology firms, and outright theft.

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