White House says tariffs will go into effect without trade policy changes by China

White House says tariffs will go into effect without trade policy changes by China
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE expects China to end their unfair trade practices or face hefty tariffs on imports into the United States.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that while she wouldn't get ahead of a review process, she anticipates that without changes by Beijing to its trade practices "then we would move forward" with tariffs.

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On Tuesday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released a proposed list on Tuesday on upward of $50 billion in tariffs on 1,300 Chinese imports in retaliation for alleged intellectual property theft.

The list will go through a thorough a review process that could take at least two months and would freeze the implementation of the duties until that review completed.

“We’re hopeful that China will do the right thing," Sanders said.

"Look, China created this problem, not President Trump, but we’re hopeful."

A USTR official told reporters in a media call on Wednesday that there is no firm deadline on when a final tariff list would be ready but they are "moving as expeditiously as we can."

The White House is pursuing the tariffs following years of economic discussions with Chinese officials that have resulted in "very very little movement from China and, in fact, we saw a number of areas where they were actually backsliding on commitments," the USTR official said. 

Despite being given repeated opportunities, China has failed to address a variety of U.S. concerns about the theft of technology and intellectual property, among a host of other issues, the official said.

"The best response would be for them to change their behavior and live up to all the pledges they made in the past," the official said. 

While the official said there continue to be talks, they wouldn't provide further details. 

"We're trying through talks, dialogue and through [World Trade Organization] WTO litigation and through the potential of these tariffs to get China to change its actions ... I think it's been pretty obvious what we've been trying to do," the official said.

China has retaliated twice this week against two sets of tariffs rolled out by the White House that would hit Beijing.

First, China slapped $3 billion in tariffs on U.S. exports over duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from countries including China.

USTR said Wednesday that there is “no basis under WTO rules for China’s decision this week to raise tariffs against over $3 billion in U.S. exports."

China’s request for consultations under the WTO Safeguards Agreement “is completely baseless because the United States’ Section 232 tariffs address the national security threat posed by imports of steel and aluminum and are not part of a safeguard action.”

Those metals tariffs went into effect on March 23 although Trump gave several countries — including Australia, Canada, Mexico and the 28 nations in the European Union — temporary waivers. 

After USTR announced the potential new tariffs under Section 301 on Tuesday, Beijing put in motion a plan Wednesday to hit 106 U.S. products with 25 percent tariffs on soybeans, cars and airplanes totaling about $50 billion.

The USTR official said they wouldn't want to speculate on what other actions the U.S. would take at this time after China's trade moves. 

"Ultimately what we would like is a situation where the competition between our countries is based on hard work and innovation and not based on these types of market-distorting practices that they've engaged in," the USTR official said.

"But it's a difficult relationship because it's very easy, as the history shows, to get them to promise to do things, but it's a lot more difficult to get them to do things." 

The tit-for-tat moves on tariffs this week have roiled stock markets. 

But Sanders said the president isn’t worried about the recent volatility and is instead concerned about “countries that have been taking advantage of us for decades. He’s not going to allow that to happen anymore."

“We may have a little bit of short-term pain but we’re going to have long-term success," she told reporters. 

Earlier in the day, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the tariffs might not take effect if negotiations with China are successful. 

"Yes, it's possible," Kudlow said when asked about tariffs being put off.

The U.S. moves to impose tariffs has raised concerns about a trade war with China. 

But Trump dismissed those worries on Wednesday in a tweet that said the U.S. is not in a trade war with China because that war was lost by his predecessors.