Ag Policy Blog

Salvos Continue as President Trump Calls for More Aggressive Tariffs

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Citing China's tariff response on farmers and manufacturers, President Donald Trump called on the U.S. trade ambassador to consider another possible $100 billion in tariffs on China and the president called on Secretary of Agriculture "to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests."

The White House announced the president's latest tariff push on China late Thursday, in response to China's decision Tuesday proposing a 25% tariff on $50 billion in U.S. products, including $16.5 billion in agricultural commodities.

The trade salvos and aggressive tariff announcements began Monday when the Trump Administration announced $50 billion in proposed tariffs on China "as an initial means of elimination of policies and practices" the Trump Administration identified in its trade investigation. The Trump Administration is using Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose penalties against China for "engaging in practices to unfairly obtain America's intellectual property." The administration is seeking to impose tariffs unilaterally rather than bring a World Trade Organization case against China.

"Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers," the White House stated Thursday.

Due China's actions, President Trump said he wanted U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to consider if another $100 billion in tariffs "would be appropriate" and to identify possible products to impose those tariffs on. Lighthizer declared his support for the president's actions, saying “President Trump is proposing an appropriate response to China’s recent threat of new tariffs," Lighthizer said.

Lighthizer noted China's retaliation announced Wednesday threatens to impose tariffs on billions of dollars in U.S. exports, including agricultural products.

"Such measures would undoubtedly cause further harm to American workers, farmers, and businesses," Lighthizer said. "Under these circumstances, the President is right to ask for additional appropriate action to obtain the elimination of the unfair acts, policies, and practices identified in USTR’s report.”

Responding to negative reaction throughout agriculture and declines in commodity prices, the president added, "I have also instructed the Secretary of Agriculture, with the support of other members of my cabinet, to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests," the White House stated.

Despite appearing to take a more aggressive posture against China, the White House said the U.S. is still prepared to talk about more fair and reciprocal trade with China, but also protecting technology and intellection property of U.S. companies.

"Trade barriers must be taken down to enhance economic growth in America and around the world," The White House statement from the president said. "I am committed to enabling American companies and workers to compete on a level playing field around the world, and I will never allow unfair trade practices to undermine American interests."

If the U.S. were to impose additional tariffs, the would be subject to the same kind of public comment period as the proposed tariffs announced April 3, USTR stated.

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