President Donald Trump announced an estimated $50 billion in tariffs against Chinese imports today. Bloomberg says it’s a retaliatory move against intellectual property violations. The move will take effect on more than 100 different types of Chinese products. The overall value of the tariffs was based on economic estimates of the damage caused by those intellectual property violations. Last year, Bloomberg says Trump instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to look into claims that China steals U.S. intellectual property and forces American companies to transfer their technical know-how to Chinese firms as a condition for doing business in the country. Lighthizer confirmed in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the administration is considering both tariffs and curbs on Chinese investment.
U.S. companies like Walmart and Amazon have warned the White House that tariffs on Chinese goods will hit consumers with higher prices. The Wall Street Journal says China plans on hitting back against Trump tariffs by targeting goods from states and industries that tend to employ Trump supporters. Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady cautioned Lighthizer and the administration about “indiscriminate” tariffs against China, noting that “it’s not about backing down, it’s about hitting the target.”
Lighthizer also testified that the European Union, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea will be exempted from tariffs on steel and aluminum. A Politico report says Lighthizer told the committee that, “the president has decided to pause the imposition of the tariffs with respect to those countries.” The levies are set to take effect on Friday. Canada and Mexico had already been exempted from the tariffs. The president agreed that “based on a certain set of criteria, that some countries should get out” and those are the countries that the U.S. has been negotiating with. Lighthizer confirmed the exemptions after ranking member Ron Wyden asked the administration’s trade boss to provide some clarity on the exemption process. “Everyone here wants to be part of the consultation process, which we haven’t had much of, recently,” Wyden said. “Which countries – because it’s going to happen tomorrow – won’t have these steel and aluminum tariffs applied to them?” Lighthizer responded with, “It’s the list I just gave.” The U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Commerce Department have been in talks with several countries about exempting them from the steel and aluminum tariffs.