Trump: US to Push for ‘Reciprocal Tax’ on Trade Partners

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would push for a “reciprocal tax” against countries, including U.S. allies, that levy tariffs on American products, but officials did not provide details on how such a tax would be structured or what goods it would apply to.

During his populist 2016 presidential campaign, Republican Trump railed at countries that had trade surpluses “taking advantage of the United States” and he revisited the theme Monday.

“We cannot continue to let people come into our country and rob us blind and charge us tremendous tariffs and taxes and we charge them nothing,” Trump told reporters at a White House event to announce a proposed infrastructure plan.

The United States loses “vast amounts of money with China and Japan and South Korea and so many other countries … It’s a little tough for them because they’ve gotten away with murder for 25 years. But we’re going to be changing policy,” he said.

Trump said his administration will impose a “reciprocal tax” to charge other countries — “some of them are so-called allies, but they’re not allies on trade.”

Retailers and trade associations have fought a Republican proposal on how imports are taxed because they believe it hurts their businesses and would lead to higher prices for consumers on basic items such as food and clothing.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, as they began to assemble a tax reform plan last year, proposed imposing a 20 percent border-adjustment tax on imports that was designed to offset the value-added tax refunds that some countries grant to their exporters.

But the idea was dropped after it ran into stiff opposition from retailers and other industries that depend on imported materials. The National Retail Federation called it a “bad tax” that would “drive up the prices of countless products Americans use every day.”

Last April on Fox Business Network, Trump suggested that if he said the U.S. would charge a 10 percent or 20 percent border tax “everyone goes crazy, because they like free trade” and added: “But when you say ‘reciprocal tax,’ nobody can get angry … OK, you say, ‘whatever you charge, we’re charging.'”

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