WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ratcheted up the trade war rhetoric with China on Thursday evening, saying he was considering another $100 billion in tariffs on the country.
“In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the [United States Trade Representative] to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate,” the president said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the United States announced new tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, claiming that China is stealing US intellectual property. China responded within hours by announcing $50 billion worth of tariffs on US goods.
The moves follow US tariffs that were imposed earlier this year on Chinese steel and aluminum, which also prompted a response from China.
Trump’s latest announcement late Thursday rattled markets and drew criticism from within his own party.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately issue a response to Trump’s proposed new round of tariffs. The Chinese government said earlier this week it would respond with equal measure to any new duties on its goods.
“We have been saying that China wouldn’t start a trade war,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in Beijing. “But we are not afraid of it, and we will resolutely fight to the end if someone insists on a war.”
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Dow futures fell after Trump’s announcement on Thursday and were down more than 300 points, or about 1.5%, in after-hours trading.
That followed a day of stock market gains as investors appeared to warm to the idea that the barbs between Washington and Beijing were all talk.
Investors were reassured by Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, who also characterized the tariffs as just proposals in remarks on Thursday.
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He told reporters there is “nothing around the corner” regarding any concrete tariff plans.
Trump’s latest tariff threat was met with criticism from members of his own Republican party. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse called the move “the dumbest possible way to do this.”
“Hopefully the President is just blowing off steam again but, if he’s even half-serious, this is nuts,” he said in a statement.
“China is guilty of many things, but the President has no actual plan to win right now. He’s threatening to light American agriculture on fire,” Sasse added.
The US has threatened to levy import taxes on more than 1,300 Chinese products, including TVs, dishwashers and printers. In turn, China vowed to target key US exports, including soybeans.
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“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” Trump’s statement on Thursday said.
Trump said he instructed to the USTR to “identify the products upon which to impose” the additional tariffs he suggested.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in a statement late Thursday called Trump’s request “appropriate.”
“China has chosen to respond thus far with threats to impose unjustified tariffs on billions of dollars in U.S. exports, including our agricultural products,” Lighthizer said. “Such measures would undoubtedly cause further harm to American workers, farmers, and businesses. Under these circumstances, the President is right to ask for additional appropriate action to obtain the elimination of the unfair acts, policies, and practices identified in USTR’s report.”