President Donald Trump signed a memorandum Thursday to slap up to $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports – and signaled there were more aggressive measures to come.
‘This is the first of many,’ Trump said, as he inked a document allowing for the tariffs. ‘This is Number One but this is the first of many,’ he repeated.
But his move sent the markets plunging on fears of a trade war, with the Dow losing 560 points in the minutes afterwards and although it recovered, it was still more than 250 points down in the early afternoon.
Shares had already been down over fears about Facebook in the wake of its data-harvesting revelations.
Trump blasted the large U.S. trade deficit with China as he spoke at the White House – while also criticizing a series of trade deals the U.S. is a party to as well as the World Trade Organization.
‘It could be about $60 billion,’ Trump said of the tariffs. ‘But that’s really just a fraction of what we’re talking about,’ he said.
Trump singled out the trade deficit with China, noting he had asked China’s president to trim it by $100 billion, even as Americans continue to snap up made-in-China products.
‘This is the first of many,’ Trump said, as he inked a document allowing for new tariffs on China
‘Any way you look at it, it is the largest deficit in any country in the history of our world. It’s out of control,’ Trump said at the White House, surrounded by his trade advisors and Vice President Mike Pence.
‘We have a tremendous intellectual property theft sit going on which likewise is hundreds of billions of dollars. And that’s on a yearly basis,’ Trump complained.
The Dow Jones Industrial average took a 500 dive about an hour before the tariffs were formally announced. By the time Trump took to a White House podium, the Dow was down 367 points, and it was lower – down 380 points – after he finished his tough trade talk, and remained down afterward.
Trump went after a bilateral South Korea trade deal, calling it a ‘very one sided deal. It’s a deal that has to be changed.’
And he said the World Trade Organization, which mediates international trade disputes: ‘has actually been a disaster for us. It’s been very unfair to us.’
The tariffs are meant to combat Chinese intellectual property theft
‘The judging has been very unfair,’ Trump said.
China and other nations warned against the move, warning it could set off a trade war.
But Trump defended it on fairness grounds.
‘It’s going to make us a much stronger much richer nation,’ he said.
He called it a ‘reciprocal’ tariff, explaining: ‘If they charge us, we charge them the same thing.’
The president singled out Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, considered a close Trump ally as among leaders taking advantage of the U.S..
‘There’ll be a little smile on their face. And the smile is: “I can’t believe we’ve been able to take advantage of the United States for so long.” So those days are over,’ Trump said.
The directive will open a consultation period by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to look at a list of Chinese products that could be targeted, Everett Eissenstat, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters.
In addition, Trump will also direct the U.S. Treasury to propose measures that could restrict Chinese investments in the United States, Eissenstat said.
The tariffs and investment restrictions will be imposed under the U.S. Trade Representative’s “Section 301” investigation into alleged misappropriation of U.S. intellectual property by China.
JUST YOU WAIT: President Trump is preparing to sign tariffs totaling up to $50 billion on China to counter what he says is intellectual property theft
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney punted on a question about the tariffs at a White House briefing shortly before Trump was to speak.
‘Let him speak for himself on that one,’ said Mulvaney.
The Washington Post earlier this week reported that Trump doubled a senior staff recommendation of $30 billion in tariffs.
But China had urged caution, and even signaling it will make concessions, albeit on its own time frame.
“What we hope is for us to act rationally rather than being led by emotions,” said China’s premier, Li Keqiang. “We don’t want to see a trade war,’ he said at a Tuesday press conference.
“If there is one thing that will be different from the past, that will be that China will open even wider,” said Li, in one of several lines signaling flexibility.
He said Beijing plans to “further bring down overall tariffs,” including removing tariffs on ‘much-needed anti-cancer drugs.’
‘There is still broad room for us to further open up,’ said Li.
This photo taken on December 6, 2017 shows a loaded cargo ship at the Yangshan Deep-Water Port, an automated cargo wharf, in Shanghai
LOOKS FAMILIAR: Sculpture in the shape of a giant oil bubble, built near the first drilling well of the Karamay oil field, is the landmark of the city. Some people say it is a copy of Chicago’s famous Cloud Gate