Trump Says He’ll Unveil ‘Reciprocal Tax’ on Imports This Week

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

President Donald Trump said Feb. 12 that he will propose a tax on imports this week, reviving an idea he floated earlier in his administration that risks raising tensions with key U.S. trade partners.

Trump didn’t elaborate on his plan for what he called a “reciprocal tax” during a White House event on his infrastructure.

“We cannot continue to be taken advantage of by other countries,” Trump said. “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. We cannot allow that to happen.”

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, also at the event, applauded the idea, saying the country needs a reciprocal tax because “we really have to claw it back” from trading partners.

Trump raised the idea early last year, as the administration explored plans for its tax overhaul. Economists and tax experts parsed Trump’s prior remarks at the time to mean he was calling for import tariffs — that is, taxes levied on specific goods or countries at varying rates. In describing his vision, Trump called for taxing imports from other countries at the same rates those countries impose on U.S. products.

A House Republican proposal to tax imports, known as the border-adjusted tax, was removed from tax revamp plans after facing intense opposition from import-heavy industries such as retailers, and a cool reception from Senate lawmakers.

“When you say I’m going to charge a 10% or a 20% border tax, everyone goes crazy, because they like free trade.” Trump said during an interview aired by Fox Business Network in April. He added later: “But when you say ‘reciprocal tax,’ nobody can get angry.”

“You say, ‘OK, whatever you charge, we’re charging,”’ Trump added in the interview.