1 of 8 | President Donald Trump signs an executive memorandum Thursday targeting China on trade at the White House. The order cracks down on what he calls "unfair" trade practices and sets up the possibility of tariffs and restrictions on investment. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
March 22 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump signed a presidential order Thursday to impose new tariffs on imported Chinese products, as a means to stem "economic aggression" by Beijing.
The memorandum slaps billions of dollars in potential fiscal penalties on Chinese imports that Trump said will "make us a much stronger, much richer nation."
"We want reciprocal, a mirror," he added. "If they charge us, we charge them the same thing. That's the way it's gotta be."
The tariffs, which could be worth about $60 billion, are the result of a Section 301 trade investigation launched last summer. The inquiry found that Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property is costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars.
"We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on, which likewise is hundreds of billions of dollars, and that's on a yearly basis," Trump said.
In his remarks Thursday, Trump called China a "friend" and said he has tremendous respect for Chinese President Xi Jinping for pressuring North Korea to denuclearize -- but said U.S. economic interests must be protected.
"They are helping us a lot in North Korea," he said. "But we have a trade deficit ... there are many different ways of looking at it, but no matter which way you look at it, it is the largest trade deficit of any country in the history of the world."
Trump blamed China for the loss of 60,000 factories and 6 million U.S. jobs and said the U.S. trade deficit with China is $375 billion -- and accounts for more than half of the United States' deficits for all nations combined.
"We are doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years," Trump said.
As he signed the memorandum, the president said the step is the "first of many."
Earlier Thursday, the Chinese government warned that it will take all necessary measures to protect its interests as a result of the tariffs.