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Trump imposes tariffs on almost $50B worth of Chinese imports

Last Updated Mar 22, 2018 at 10:46 pm EDT

US President Donald J. Trump prepares to sign a presidential memorandum targeting what the White House termed 'China's economic aggression' EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

President Donald Trump has taken the first step in imposing tariffs on nearly $50-billion worth of Chinese imports.

The order signed Thursday is aimed at punishing Beijing for stealing American technology and pressuring U.S. companies to hand it over.

The president is also asking Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to come up with a list of restrictions on Chinese investment.

Trump says the U.S. and China have “the largest (trade) deficit of any country in the history of our world” and blames that deficit for lost American jobs.

He says the move will make the U.S. a “much stronger, much richer nation.”

China is already warning that it will take “all necessary measures” to defend itself, raising the prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

North American markets closed down sharply over fears of rising protectionism by moving to impose tariffs on some Chinese goods.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed down 275.35 points to 15,399.93 in broad-based declines led by base metals.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 724.42 points to 23,957.89. The S&P 500 index was down 68.24 points to 2,643.69 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 178.61 points to 7,166.68.