Trump Seeks "Reciprocal" Tax on Trading Partners

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would push for what he called a "reciprocal tax" against countries, including U.S. allies, that levy tariffs on American products, though 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, Trump railed at countries that had trade surpluses "taking advantage of the United States" and he revisited the theme on Monday.

The United States loses, he said, "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."

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."

The president did not specify how such a tax would be structured, or whether he meant that U.S. tariff rates should be raised to equal to those charged by other major trading partners. Administration officials were not immediately able to elaborate on the president's comments.

Trump cited motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) as an example of the problem of unfair trade. Harley is building a factory in Thailand, partly because its U.S.-built bikes face a 60% tariff there.

The United States has pledged to the World Trade Organization a relatively low, 3.5% applied tariff rate, compared to 9.9% for China and 5.2% for the European Union. For some products, the gap is much wider, such as in passenger vehicles, where the United States charges 2.5% tariffs, versus 25% in China and 10% in the EU.