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  1. ITV Report

Trump hits China with tariffs raising the prospect of a trade war

President Donald Trump has signed an order that paves the way for imposing tariffs on as much as 60 billion US dollars worth of Chinese imports to punish Beijing for what he said is the theft of American technology and Chinese pressure on US companies to hand it over.

"It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world," Mr Trump said of the US-China trade imbalance, blaming it for lost American jobs.

He said his action would make the country stronger and richer.

China has already warned that it will take "all necessary measures" to defend itself, raising the prospect of a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

Donald Trump holds up a proclamation on steel and aluminium imports in March Credit: AP

The White House said Mr Trump would direct the Office of the US Trade Representative to publish a list of proposed tariffs for public comment within 15 days.

The US government also announced the European Union will be among trading partners that are spared from tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the United States.

US President Donald Trump had planned to impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on aluminium to restrict China flooding the world with cheaper goods but in practice it would have affected many allies.

The EU had threatened to impose their own tariffs in retaliation, but the move reduces risk of a trade war.

The EU will be exempt from tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the US Credit: PA

The United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has said the European Union along with Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea, would be exempted. Canada and Mexico had already been told they were free from tariffs.

The White House also announced further steps to restrict Chinese investment and placed tariffs on nearly $50 billion worth of Chinese imports to punish Beijing for “stealing American technology”.

China has already warned that it will take "all necessary measures" to defend itself, signalling the likelihood of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.