Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Friday
President Trump appeared to up the ante in his trade dispute with China Thursday by signaling his willingness to impose more tariffs than previously announced.
As NPR’s Scott Horsley reports, Trump is ratcheting up the tit-for-tat with China over trade by asking his trade representative to consider tariffs on another $100 billion worth of Chinese imports.
“Neither Trump nor Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer immediately ordered tariffs. But the bellicose rhetoric from the White House represents an escalation in the tense trade standoff.
“Earlier, Trump had suggested to an audience in West Virginia that an all-out trade war might be avoided.
“Trump said, ‘In many respects, I think we’re going to have a fantastic long-term relationship with China. But we have to get this straightened out. We have to have some balance.’
“Chinese tariffs on pork and nuts and a threat of tariffs on soybeans have already depressed farm prices in the US. Trump ordered his agriculture secretary to come up with a plan to protect U.S. farmers, though he did not say what that might involve.”
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce responded to the new proposal with a statement on their website saying that they will be listening and observing what the U.S. does. The ministry added that China is prepared to follow suit and fight the U.S. at any cost.
As The Associated Press reports:
“The latest escalation comes after the U.S. on Tuesday said it would impose 25 percent duties on $50 billion of imports from China, and China quickly retaliated by listing $50 billion of products that it could hit with its own 25 percent tariffs. The Chinese list Wednesday included soybeans, the biggest U.S. export to China, and aircraft up to 45 tons (41 metric tons) in weight. Also on the list were American beef, whiskey, passenger vehicles and industrial chemicals.
“Earlier in the week, Beijing announced separate import duties on $3 billion of U.S. goods in response to the Trump administration’s duties on all steel and aluminum imports, including from China.”
Trump made his announcement after U.S. markets had closed.
That announcement drew a quick rebuke from Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who tweeted that the president is “threatening to light American agriculture on fire.”
“Hopefully the President is just blowing off steam again but, if he’s even half-serious, this is nuts,” Sasse wrote.
The U.S. has a $375 billion dollar trade deficit with China.