President Donald Trump signaled his intention to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports and curbs on investments in sensitive technology, sending a hawkish message to Beijing days before the latest round of trade talks between the world's two largest economies.
"The United States will request that China remove all of its many trade barriers, including non-monetary trade barriers, which make it both hard and unfair to do business there".
China responded the next day with a $50 billion list of its own, which heavily targeted agricultural and chemical products and which Beijing has vowed to impose as soon as the US moves forward with its tariffs.
With Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross heading to China this weekend for the next round of negotiations, there is some doubt about the administration's ultimate objective: Is it trying to change the nature of China's economic system, or does it simply want to improve the trade balance between the two countries?
Trump has long said that China has taken advantage of the United States with unfair trade practices, including industrial subsidies and prohibitive trade barriers.
In addition to affecting Chinese companies that export products into the USA, the tariffs could also affect multinational OEMs that have shifted their manufacturing to China to take advantage of lower labor costs.
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The White House said the policies included forced technology transfer; requiring licensing at less than economic value; state-directed acquisition of sensitive U.S. technology for strategic purposes; and outright cybertheft.
The White House also pledged to continue a WTO case it started in March on accusations that China's intellectual property practices violate global trade law.
But Chinese media had noted that the deal with the USA could see some Australian imports sidelined, including beef and wine, which had gained preferential access under Australia's Free Trade Agreement with China.
"There's a strong reason to suspect Trump is basing policy decisions on how they'll profit his family", said Trump critic and former Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub in a recent tweet.
Beijing has previously pledged to retaliate against the 25 percent tariffs.
The Commerce Department informed Congress on Friday of a plan to ease penalties on ZTE (ZTCOF), the Chinese phone and telecom equipment maker that was crippled by an export ban issued in April as punishment for what the United States said were violations of its sanctions against North Korea and Iran. China has made similar promises to act better on trade with the U.S.in the past.