Trump renews threats to slap tariffs on more than $300 billion worth of Chinese products

Trump XiEugene Hoshiko/Getty Images; Reuters

  • President Donald Trump has expressed a renewed willingness to use punishing tariffs in the yearlong trade war with China, weeks after the two sides reached a ceasefire in trade negotiations.
  • "We have a long way to go as far as tariffs where China is concerned," the president said in a Cabinet meeting at the White House. "If we want, we have another $325 billion we can put a tariff on, if we want."
  • The comments could add to tension as the two sides work to defuse a dispute that has led to more than $350 billion worth of tariffs between the largest economies.
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Weeks after negotiators from the US and China restarted an attempt to defuse their sprawling trade dispute, President Donald Trump expressed a renewed willingness to use punishing tariffs. The threat marked the latest signal of defiance between the two sides since they reached a trade ceasefire.

"We have a long way to go as far as tariffs where China is concerned," the president said in a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday. "If we want, we have another $325 billion we can put a tariff on, if we want."

That could add to tension as negotiators work to deescalate a trade war that has led to more than $350 billion worth of tariffs between the largest economies. Trump said he would suspend those additional duties at a pull-aside meeting with President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit last month, in addition to vows to ease restrictions on telecommunications giant Huawei.

He asserted that China would increase purchases of American agricultural products in return, though it has not publicly confirmed such a commitment. On Tuesday, he said his administration was watching to see if it would revive shipments of US soybeans and corn as retaliatory tariffs make them more expensive.

Read more: Trump just threw an event for American manufacturers from each state - but it left out the countless others that are struggling with his new trade policies

Trump added that he wished China "didn't break the deal we had." In May, high-level trade negotiations stalled just as the largest economies were on the brink of a deal. US officials said their Chinese counterparts had in a draft agreement reneged on key commitments, including intellectual property theft rules and means of enforcing them.

"Ensuing talks will only succeed if one side gives in on a major issue," said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute. "The Chinese don't want tariffs to enforce better IP behavior and they don't want to change laws to enforce better IP behavior. They essentially want the US to trust them, which would be remarkably stupid on our side."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters this week that he expects to speak with trade negotiators by phone in the coming days and that an in-person meeting could follow. The Office of the US Trade Representative did not respond to an email requesting details.

In Beijing, Xi faces a balancing act between maintaining a tough reputation and making concessions that could ease pressure on the country's slowing economy. On Monday, data showed China's gross domestic product growth fell to its slowest pace since 1992 in the second quarter.

But top officials have appeared increasingly resistantant to demands from the Trump administration. Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, who is viewed as a hardliner in Washington, urged the country on Monday to remain tough amid tariff conflicts.

"We must make the best of the spirit of struggle and stand firm in defending the interests of our country and the people, as well as the multilateral trading system," he said in an interview with the People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.

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