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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has asked China to develop a plan to reduce the current trade deficit between the two countries by $1 billion.
"Our relationship with China has been a very good one," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "We look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!"
The trade deficit with China surged 16.7 percent to $36 billion in January, its highest level since September 2015, suggesting that Trump's "America First" policies have not yet had a material impact on the deficit. Meanwhile, the United States' total trade deficit increased to a more than nine-year high during the first month of 2018.
A $1 billion decrease in the U.S.-China trade deficit would represent a less than 1 percent reduction in the annual deficit.
The request to Beijing comes amid a heated international debate on trade policy after Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports last Thursday.
The president also appeared to criticize China's alleged theft of intellectual property, saying, "The U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft. We cannot allow this to happen as it has for many years!"