The White House is “very strongly” considering imposing tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars more in Chinese goods, President Donald Trump said Tuesday, indicating that trade tensions between Washington and Beijing could ramp up further in coming months.
For months, Trump has threatened to move forward with a fourth round of duties as high as 25 percent on roughly $325 billion in Chinese imports. But since Beijing announced plans to retaliate against the U.S. on Monday morning with higher duties on $60 billion in U.S. exports, the Trump administration has said that those additional duties are a very real possibility.
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“We're looking at that very strongly, about the $325 billion,” Trump told reporters outside the White House late Tuesday morning. “We're looking at it very strongly.”
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative this week began the process of ordering additional tariffs, filing paperwork that outlined a public comment period that must take place before additional duties can be imposed.
Because of the mandatory comment process, any decision on further duties is at least six weeks away, which would put it after an expected meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Japan late next month.
Many businesses, however, make purchases months in advance. Retail groups and other industries are already beginning to sound the alarm on such a move.
Opponents of the idea warn that while scores of consumer goods imported from China have so far escaped the tariffs, expanding the amount of items hit to cover virtually all imports from the Asian economic giant means that U.S. households would feel the brunt of the costs.
"Taxing Americans on everyday products like clothes and shoes is not the answer for holding China accountable," National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
The new list of imports that would be affected includes numerous electronic devices such as cellphones and televisions, agricultural products like cheese, footwear and clothing, and chemicals.
Still, Trump continued to remain upbeat about the U.S.‘ leverage in the escalating conflict, insisting in an early morning Twitter spree on Tuesday that the United States is in a “fantastic position.”
As stocks showed possible signs of a recovery after Monday's dive, the president predicted he could produce a trade deal with China “tomorrow” but that it will happen “when the time is right.”
Though he asserted a deal to end yearlong impasse would happen “much faster than people think,” the president also sought to reassure farmers who will likely bear the brunt of China’s retaliatory tariffs announced Monday, and urged manufacturers to move their production to the U.S., a potential signal that he is prepared for a more drawn-out battle with Beijing.
Despite China's direct targeting of the U.S. agriculture industry with its retaliatory tariffs, the president predicted that “our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now.”
“Hopefully China will do us the honor of continuing to buy our great farm product, the best, but if not your Country will be making up the difference based on a very high China buy,” he vowed.
The latest escalation between the two countries comes after China backed out of a nearly completed deal that negotiators were unable to salvage last week, according to U.S. officials. The fresh tariff hikes have put the U.S. in “much better position now than any deal we could have made,” Trump said Tuesday.
Trump also pressured Xi to strike a deal, lamenting the “tremendous ground” he said the U.S. had lost since the formation of the World Trade Organization, the international trade body Trump blasted as “ridiculous” and “one-sided” after Beijing looked to the organization to rein in his barrage of tariffs.
Beijing on Tuesday asked the WTO to intervene in its trade dispute with Washington, proposing new rules that would subject its tariffs to a "multilateral review" and allow member countries to retaliate even when the tariffs had been imposed under a “national security exception,” as Trump has done.
China said the Trump administration’s trade moves had "disturbed the international trade order and international market, impeded normal technological exchanges and applications, impaired the interests of members concerned and undermined the relevant rules of the WTO.”
Trump on Tuesday had flattering words for Xi, but cautioned that he was not prepared to settle in trade negotiations.
“My respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited but, as I have told him many times before, this must be a great deal for the United States or it just doesn’t make any sense,” he argued. “We have to be allowed to make up some of the tremendous ground we have lost to China on Trade since the ridiculous one sided formation of the WTO.”