With the U.S. facing China, tensions rise with tariffs.
By Abby White
In the latest step of his intensifying trade war with China, President Trump suggested increasing his administration’s proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, although the administration will not reach a final decision on the tariffs until September at the earliest.
The tariffs, on goods such as petroleum, fish, chemicals and handbags, come in response to China’s unwillingness to negotiate with the U.S. over its trade practices. The Trump administration views some of those practices as harmful to the U.S., including regulatory practices that hurt American companies and price manipulation affecting U.S. farmers.
Efforts to push Beijing to the table have created a rift within the Trump administration. According to the New York Times, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin opposes the tariff increase, while Peter Navarro, a key trade adviser, has pushed Trump to support it. Reports also suggest Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, has counseled him to ratchet up tariffs.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, called the idea to raise tariffs “pressure and blackmail” in a Beijing press conference. He said that “if the U.S. takes a further and upgraded move, China would definitely retaliate to safeguard our legal rights,” although the Chinese currency’s recent, rapid depreciation has weakened their position.
In the past, Chinese retaliation for Trump’s trade measures have damaged the livelihoods of U.S. workers. Last week, Chinese retaliations against Trump’s tariffs forced the government to issue $12 billion in emergency aid to U.S. farmers. Other industries, including auto, motorcycle and parts manufacturers, have asked for similar bailouts. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates such aid would cost at least $39 billion.
The Trump administration’s trade war with China has created rifts in Congress as well. Even at 10 percent, Trump’s proposed tariffs alarmed pro-trade congressmen, including Republicans, who began trying to rein in the administration earlier this summer, with no success thus far.
Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and frequent Trump critic, introduced legislation co-sponsored with several other Republican and Democratic lawmakers in June that would let Congress review the administration’s use of national security justifications to impose tariffs on imports. However, the bill has not come up for review yet, and Congress has done little else to try and push against Trump’s trade policies.
This escalation in the U.S.’s conflict with China comes amid a seeming denouement in Trump’s trade wars with Canada and Mexico. American and Mexican negotiators plan to discuss a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement this week, the first step in restoring NAFTA, although details remain murky.
In the past, the U.S. has worked with its allies, including the European Union, to hold China accountable for fair trade practices. This time, other countries have not expressed similar grievances with China’s trading, despite the U.S. and some of its allies receiving the same goods.
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