WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is moving ahead with steps to protect U.S. intellectual property by punishing China with broad investment restrictions, litigation at the World Trade Organization and hefty tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.
The move, which the White House announced Tuesday morning, comes just over a week after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the trade war between the two countries was “on hold” and will ratchet up tensions just before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is set to arrive in Beijing this week for further talks.
Beijing has already pledged to retaliate against the 25 percent tariffs, which the White House said will specifically target Chinese imports “containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the Made in China 2025 program.” The list of targeted goods will be announced by June 15 and imposed shortly after, the White House said.
The investment restrictions and strengthened export controls will aim to curb Chinese acquisition of “industrially significant” technology and will be announced by June 30.
The White House also pledged to continue a WTO case it started in March on accusations that Chinas intellectual property practices violate international trade law.
All three measures are being taken as a result of a seven-month investigation the Trump administration began into Chinas handling of data and intellectual property, which wrapped up in late March. The White House argues as a result of that investigation that Beijing commits IP theft and forces foreign companies to hand over valuable data in order to operate in the Chinese market and compete with domestic firms.
As a result, the White House released a list in early April of $50 billion worth of products it would target with tariffs. The list steered clear of many everyday items like cellphones and clothing but included cars, some home appliances and an assortment of electronics.
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 U.S. moves forward with its tariffs. Those come on top of the $3 billion in tariffs in place as of early April on Chinese imports of U.S. shipments of pork, fruit, nuts, recycled aluminum and other goods.
On Tuesday, American hog farmers sent out a plea calling on the administration to swiftly resolve disputes with China, saying that is costing producers billions of dollars in lost profits. The group cited research from Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, who estimates that U.S. pork producers have lost $2.2 billion on an annualized basis as a result of events leading up to and following Chinas 25 percent punitive tariff on pork.
But there had been some hope among free traders and the anti-tariff camp that the stiffer tariffs would ever ultimately go into effect after the two countries launched a trade dialogue earlier this month in Beijing. After Trump administration officials traveled to China at the start of the month, a Chinese delegation came to Washington two weeks later.
After that meeting, the two sides announced that Beijing would buy significantly more U.S. agricultural and energy products in a bid to reduce the bilateral trade deficit, and they said they established a framework for addressing technology trade irritants.
“Were putting the trade war on hold,” Mnuchin said at the close of those meetings on May 20. “Right now, we have agreed to put tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework.”
Doug Palmer contributed to this report.