Why Trump’s tariffs on China are a big deal

Main Street and Wall Street are bracing as the United States prepares to levy more tariffs on China.

President Trump on Thursday directed the US trade representative to level tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

In the next 15 days, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will publish a list of products that his team intends to hit with tariffs. It’s not clear how high the individual tariffs will be.

The United States also plans to impose new investment restrictions and take action against China at the World Trade Organization.

Why it matters

1. The Trump administration is turning its tough talk on trade into action this year.

2. Chinese officials are warning that they will retaliate with tariffs on US exports to China. They haven’t been specific yet, though.

3. Investors, economists and policymakers are worried about a China-US trade war that could embroil the global economy.

4. Americans buy lots of Chinese-made goods. Prices will likely go up for shoppers. How much is anyone’s guess.2

So there’s a lot at stake, from Wall Street to your local Walmart.

Trump administration officials say fears of a trade war are overblown. And the tariffs are essentially delivering on a campaign promise: Trump told voters he would get tough on China, accusing it of stealing US jobs.

The $50 billion question is whether Trump’s tariffs, and the likely Chinese retaliation, will create or kill more American jobs.

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