President Donald Trump has vowed to protect U.S. farmers in what appears to be an escalating trade war with China.
On April 3, the U.S. Trade Representative announced approximately $50 billion in proposed tariffs on imports from China as a means to eliminate practices the White House said China uses to unfairly obtain America’s intellectual property.
“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” Trump said in an April 5 statement.
China’s proposed steep tariff increases targeting $16.5 billion in Chinese agriculture and food imports from the U.S., including soybeans, corn and corn products, wheat, sorghum, cotton, beef and beef products, cranberries, orange juice, and tobacco and tobacco products.
China days earlier put in place 15% tariff increases on a wide range of U.S. fruit and nuts in response to previously announced U.S. tariffs on China steel and aluminum.
Trump said April 5 that he wants the U.S. Trade Representative to consider additional trade penalties on China.
“In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs,” Trump said in his statement.
Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 gives the president authority to take appropriate action, including retaliation, to stop policies or acts by a foreign government that violate an international trade agreements or unfairly restrict U.S. commerce.
“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.”
Trump said he is still prepared to talk with China to achieve what he called “free, fair, and reciprocal trade and to protect the technology and intellectual property of American companies and American people.”
Richard Owen, vice president of global business development for the Produce Marketing Association, said Trump’s broad statement about supporting U.S. farmers left a lot of unanswered questions about how he could accomplish it.