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International relations

Trump ready to slap China with new trade penalties

Response to intellectual property violations could affect $60bn of goods

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump is set to unveil new tariffs on products from China, punishing it over intellectual property issues and fueling concerns about rising trade tensions between the world's top two economies.

Trump will announce the actions Thursday, a White House official said, according to Reuters.

Separate, broader tariffs on steel and aluminum imports take effect Friday. Further sanctions are sure to draw a backlash from Beijing, possibly including retaliatory measures. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the president would make a decision in the "very near future."

The 100-plus products likely to face higher tariffs, which include electronics and communications equipment as well as clothing and toys, could reach $30 billion to $60 billion in value. The Trump administration is also considering restricting Chinese companies' investment activities in the U.S. and limiting visas issued to Chinese nationals.

The White House is thinking about invoking Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 -- a provision that lets the U.S. trade representative and the president impose such sanctions in response to unfair trade practices. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is looking into the trade relationship with China, taking issue with such conditions as rampant counterfeiting and pressure for American companies investing there to share technology.

Section 301 also provides a mechanism for launching bilateral dialogue before imposing sanctions. Whether the White House will impose tariffs right out of the gate or try luring China to the negotiating table first is unclear.

Japan and Europe have also adopted a harsh view of Chinese intellectual property infractions. But strong unilateral sanctions by Washington could run afoul of World Trade Organization rules.

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