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The U.S. trade picture

Total U.S. trade with China in 2017 was $660.5 billion, almost $125 billion more than its next largest trading partner, Canada. Additionally, the trade deficit (exports minus imports) between the U.S. and China was about $350 billion, more than three times that of its next largest trade partner deficit with Mexico. Among the U.S.'s most significant trade partners, the country maintains a neutral or positive trade balance with three countries, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Total imports from China to the U.S. were about $506 billion in 2017, while China purchased about $155 billion in U.S. goods and services. Tariffs on $50 billion of goods coming from China could close the gap, ripple effects and reciprocal actions, notwithstanding. Among the areas of the U.S. economy most threatened by retaliatory Chinese action is agriculture, particularly soybean producers that ship large amounts of soy products to China.

While much of the motivation behind the tariffs is an effort to protect American intellectual property surrounding technology, flat-screen TVs and smartphones will not be part of the items taxed by customs agents.