Trump says he may upset China over trade as US tariffs loom

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore June 12, 2018. — Reuters pic
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore June 12, 2018. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, June 14 — President Donald Trump said he’ll confront China “very strongly” over trade in the coming weeks, as his administration prepares to follow through on a threat to slap tariffs on Chinese imports.

“China could be a little bit upset about trade because we are very strongly clamping down on trade,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier airing yesterday. The interview was conducted Tuesday aboard Air Force One after Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

“You will see over the next couple of weeks. They understand what we are doing,” he said before praising his “good” personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The White House has said it’s proceeding with plans to impose duties on US$50 billion (RM199.5 billion) of Chinese goods, after weeks of high level-discussions between the US and China yielded little progress over a trade deal.

The Trump administration plans to announce tomorrow a final list of tariff targets, which will will be imposed “shortly thereafter.” The Trump administration is reviewing a flood of comments to refine its initial list of $50 billion in imports that it revealed in April.

In its preliminary list, the US said it would levy an additional 25 per cent duty on everything from TV components to dishwashers and snowblowers.

Trump decision

Administration officials have cautioned that Trump has the final say.

“It’s always the president’s decision,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Tuesday at an event in Washington.

The administration is expected to put the Chinese tariffs into effect by next month, said Ted Murphy, managing partner at the Washington office of law firm Baker McKenzie.

“That would be my baseline case: That they’re going to publish a final list on Friday with an effective date of July 1,” said Murphy, who sits on a trade committee that advises the Commerce Department and US Trade Representative’s office. “Things change on a tweet, so if they think China is negotiating in good faith, they could delay it.”

China has threatened to retaliate with proportional duties on everything from American soybeans to airplanes. The two countries have been trying to negotiate a truce to the trade spat. But at the latest round of talks in Beijing, Xi’s government warned that will withdraw any commitments if Trump carries out his threat to impose duties.

North Korea meeting

Trump’s warning comes just days after his meeting in Singapore with Kim over that nation’s nuclear weapons. China is a key player in talks to wind down North Korea’s nuclear program and bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.

China is widely seen as one of the big winners of Trump’s meeting with Kim as it hopes to maintain stability in its neighbouring country and boost trade.

Trump on Tuesday thanked China for tightening its sanctions on trade with North Korea, arguing that the economic pressure along North Korea’s northwest border had helped bring Kim to the negotiating table.

G-7 tussle

The tariffs move would come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between America and its traditional trading and security partners.

A meeting of the Group of Seven ended in chaos this weekend, after Trump revoked support for a joint statement and lashed out at fellow leaders. Following the meetings, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned that the outlook for the global economy is growing “darker by the day.”

Businesses are lobbying to shape the final US list, with many firms pushing for exclusions for products they use in their supply chains. Almost 125 companies testified in Washington during three days of hearings last month to collect feedback over the tariffs. Many warned that the tariffs would increase their costs and raise prices for consumers. — Bloomberg