In an interview with CNBC broadcast Friday, President Trump said he’s ready to escalate the trade war with China by slapping tariffs on every single thing the country exports to the U.S. “I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country. We have been ripped off by China for a long time,” he said.
So far, the U.S. has put tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Tariffs on another $16 billion of electronics and components are scheduled and the Trump administration has threatened to target another $200 billion of Chinese products with tariffs, a move that would raise prices for Americans and hurt China’s economy.
Asked on CNBC if he is ready to go to $500 billion — a number that nearly matches the $505 billion in products that China exported to the U.S. in 2017 — Trump said, “I’m ready to go to 500.” China has so far met U.S. tariffs with equal retaliatory tariffs, but with only $130 billion in U.S. goods exported to China, it’s not possible for President Xi Jinping it to match tariffs on a half-trillion dollars of products.
“I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” Trump said. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”
Trump’s threat comes as the trade war with China threatens to go into overdrive. Axios reports on Friday that “chances of a longer, wider, more damaging trade war with China are rising,” with one possible scenario including China goading Trump into a trade war. It would hurt both countries, but China’s “state-run government can do more to artificially prop up its economy” and a cratering U.S. economy would almost surely hurt Trump’s presidency.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow tells Axios that if Xi is trying to hurt Trump ahead of the midterms in hopes of getting a better deal after Republicans take an electoral loss, “That’s a very bad bet.”
“No matter what the elections are, he’s not going to let go of this issue,” Kudlow said. “Donald Trump will be the president until at least January, 2021.”