President Donald Trump threatened a new escalation of the trade war with China, saying US tariffs on Chinese goods would be “raised very substantially” if no truce was reached with officials in Beijing.
Mr Trump’s comments at the Economic Club of New York highlight the trouble the US administration is having in its efforts to strike an interim deal with China that would bring a halt to the commercial conflict afflicting the world’s two largest economies.
After Mr Trump announced that a tentative agreement had been secured in early October, US and Chinese officials have been haggling over the details, including where a deal would be signed and whether Washington would roll back existing levies as part of such a settlement.
Mr Trump said a “significant phase one deal with China” remained “close” and “could happen soon”, as Beijing was “dying to make a deal”. But he also warned that higher levies would follow if the talks faltered.
I tell it to everybody: If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs
President Donald Trump on US trade talks with China The US has placed 25 per cent tariffs on $250bn of Chinese imports and 15 per cent tariffs on a further $112bn of Chinese goods. It has threatened new 15 per cent tariffs on a further $156bn of Chinese products in December.
“I tell it to everybody: If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs, they are going to be raised very substantially,” Mr Trump warned.
Mr Trump used the speech in New York, his hometown, to defend his administration’s protectionist trade policies and his economic record ahead of next year’s presidential election campaign
He said his administration had “delivered on our promises and exceeded our expectations” after nearly three years in office, but blamed the Federal Reserve for restraining growth under his watch.
The president, who has frequently challenged the Fed’s independence by demanding easier monetary policy, said the US was at a “competitive disadvantage” because it had not followed the eurozone into the land of negative rates.
“Give some of that money, I want some of that money,” he said. The Fed has cut interest rates three times this year, after raising them last year, but has since suggested it will pause easing for the time being.
Mr Trump’s remarks came at a pivotal moment in his presidency, on the eve of public impeachment hearings over the Ukraine scandal in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and less than a year from the 2020 presidential election. Mr Trump wants to tout his economic prowess as a key selling point in the 2020 campaign, in a bid to hold on to the swing voters who propelled him to the White House in the race against Hillary Clinton in 2016.