Trump raises stakes

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Tuesday raised the stakes in a growing trade showdown with China, announcing 25 per cent tariffs on some 1300 industrial technology, transport and medical products to try to force changes in Beijing’s intellectual property practices.

The US Trade Representative’s office unveiled a list of mainly non-consumer products representing about $US50 billion ($F102b) of estimated 2018 imports that would nonetheless hit supply chains for many US manufacturers.

The list ranges from chemicals to TV sets, motor vehicles and electronic components.

Publication of the tariff lists starts a public comment and consultation period expected to last around two months, after which USTR said it would issue a “final determination” on the product list.

It has scheduled a May 15 public hearing on the tariffs.

The announcement drew a swift threat of retaliation from the Chinese embassy in Washington.

“As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate.

“The Chinese side will resort to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism and take corresponding measures of equal scale and strength against US products in accordance with Chinese law,” the embassy said in a statement.

The USTR target list follows China’s imposition of tariffs on $US3b ($F6b) worth of US fruits, nuts, pork and wine to protest new US steel and aluminum tariffs imposed last month by US President Donald Trump.

The standoff between the world’s two largest economies has sparked market fears that they could spiral into a trade war that could crush global growth.