Chinese tactics, the administration says, include outright cybertheft and forcing US companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
The initial US tariff list focused on Chinese industrial products in an attempt to limit the impact on American consumers. By expanding the list, the administration is beginning to hit products that US households buy, including such things as electric lamps and fish sticks.
“Tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products
amounts to another multibillion-dollar tax on American businesses and families,” said Scott Lincicome, a trade lawyer and senior policy analyst for the group Republicans Fighting Tariffs.
Members of Congress are increasingly questioning Trump’s aggressive trade policies, warning that tariffs on imports raise prices for consumers and expose US farmers and manufacturers to retaliation abroad.
“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,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement.
China meanwhile accused the US of bullying and warned it would hit back after the Trump Administration raised the stakes in their trade dispute, threatening 10 per cent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
China’s commerce ministry said on Wednesday it was “shocked” and would complain to the World Trade Organization, but did not immediately say how it would retaliate. In a statement, it called the US actions “completely unacceptable”.
The foreign ministry described Washington’s threats as “typical bullying” and said China needed to counter-attack to protect its interests.
“This is a fight between unilateralism and multilateralism, protectionism and free trade, might and rules,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing on Wednesday. Beijing has said it would hit back against Washington’s escalating tariff measures, including through “qualitative measures,” a threat that US businesses in China fear could mean anything from stepped-up inspections to delays in investment approvals and even consumer boycotts. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed Chinese officials, said Beijing was considering steps including holding up licenses for US companies, delaying approvals of mergers involving US firms and stepping up border inspections of American goods.
China could also limit visits to the US by Chinese tourists, a business state media said is worth $115 billion, or shed some of its US Treasury holdings, Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING in Hong Kong, wrote in a note. The $200 billion far exceeds the total value of goods China imports from the US.