Escalating Trump's 'America first' trade policy, US President Donald Trump on Thursday imposed $50 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, alleging 'unfair' intellectual property theft. The action followed a seven-month investigation into the allegations, a long-standing point of contention between US-China trade relations.
Immediately after, China also raised the tariffs on US pork, aluminium and other goods in response to Trump tariff hikes. The official website of China's commerce ministry has a proposed list of 128 US products as potential retaliation targets.
In addition to tariffs, the White House also plans to impose new investment restrictions and take action against China at the World Trade Organization.
"We have a tremendous intellectual property theft problem. It's going to make us a much stronger, much richer nation," Trump said.
"This has been long in the making," Trump told reporters in the White House at the ceremony while signing his memorandums targeting China's economic actions.
The US currently has nearly $500 billion of trade deficit with China.
In a statement by the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., China "forcefully denounced" President Trump`s decision of imposing trade tariffs on Chinese goods and accused of putting the two countries on the brink for a trade war, according to media reports.
"If a trade war were initiated by the US, China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures," the embassy said.
"We urge the US to cease and desist," it added, warning that by endangering China-US trade relations Washington D.C. will "eventually end up hurting itself.
Trump levied the tariffs on China, a day after US Trade Representative (USTR) concluded its Special 301 investigation against China and presented its report to him.
The USTR report concluded that China uses foreign ownership restrictions, including joint venture requirements, equity limitations and other investment restrictions to require or pressure technology transfer from US companies to Chinese entities.
Trump alleged that China had been indulging in tremendous intellectual property theft worth hundreds of billions of dollars on a yearly basis.
"I've spoken to the president. I've spoken to representatives of China. We've been dealing with it very seriously," he said.
"As you know, we're renegotiating NAFTA. We'll see how that turns out. Many countries are calling to negotiate better trade deals, because they don't want to have to pay the steel and aluminum tariffs, and we are negotiating with various countries," he added.