Trump says he is a 'Tariff Man' during raging tweetstorm on China trade war negotiations

trump xiGetty Images / Thomas Peter-Pool

  • President Donald Trump expressed optimism for a possible US-China trade deal on Tuesday but warned if talks fall apart, he is "a Tariff Man."
  • The warning comes days after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping made a preliminary trade agreement to delay the trade war's escalation.
  • The US promised to delay the increase of its tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods by 90 days.
  • But the deal was also vague, and the uncertainty has led to skepticism that the divides between the US and Chinese goals can be bridged.

President Donald Trump warned as part of a Tuesday tweetstorm that a potential trade deal with China could still fall through but said preliminary negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping were encouraging.

"President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will. But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man," Trump said. "When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power."

Trump has long been a "Tariff Man," advocating for duties on imported cars and goods as far back as the 1980s. In a 1990 interview with Playboy, the then-real estate investor said imposing tariffs on Japanese cars would be the first order of business if he ever won the presidency.

The warning comes days after Trump and Xi reached a preliminary agreement to delay the further escalation of the US-China trade war.

But Trump also expressed optimism for the 90-day negotiating period before tariffs are set to increase. He said Xi already agreed to take concrete steps towards alleviating the trade war.

"China is supposed to start buying Agricultural product and more immediately," he tweeted. "President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will."

Read more: The US-China trade war might still rage on despite a breakthrough deal between Trump and Xi»

While the two sides left talks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with an upbeat attitude, confusion and a lack of clarity around what exactly Trump and Xi agreed to has left many experts skeptical that a concrete deal can be reached in such a short window.

The two countries issued wildly different statements, and Trump administration officials have offered changing accounts of the deal's details in the days since the meeting.

What is clear is that if no deal or further extension of talks is agreed upon by March 1, the US's tariffs on roughly $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will increase from the current 10% rate to 25%. Trump also threatened to impose tariffs on the remaining $267 billion worth of Chinese goods not currently subject to tariffs.

While the the negotiations are held over the next three months, the tariffs on $360 billion worth of goods flowing between the two countries will also remain in place.

The president also confirmed that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been critical of China in the past, will lead the negotiations with the help of other administration officials.

"The negotiations with China have already started. Unless extended, they will end 90 days from the date of our wonderful and very warm dinner with President Xi in Argentina," Trump said. "Bob Lighthizer will be working closely with Steve Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow, Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro on seeing whether or not a REAL deal with China is actually possible. If it is, we will get it done."

Read more: Trump's newest pick to lead the trade fight against China reportedly took the Chinese by surprise and could be bad news for a deal»

But despite the uncertainty and threats, Trump also said he was open to signing a possible agreement if one is reached between Chinese and US negotiators.

"But if a fair deal is able to be made with China, one that does all of the many things we know must be finally done, I will happily sign," Trump said. "Let the negotiations begin."

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