WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump further escalated his trade fight with China today, saying his administration was prepared to impose tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and potentially even more if Beijing continues to fight back.
Trump’s threat, in response to retaliatory measures by China, was the latest volley in a dizzying trade dispute that has pitted the world’s two largest economies against each other and resulted in a seemingly endless game of one-upsmanship. The president called it punishment for what he said was an attempt by Beijing to keep the United States “at a permanent and unfair disadvantage.”
“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” Trump said in a statement. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong,” he added, calling China’s response “unacceptable.”
The tit for tat began Friday, when Trump said Washington would move ahead with tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, including agricultural and industrial machinery. The action provoked an immediate response from Beijing, which said it would place its own tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods, including beef, poultry, tobacco and cars.
Today, Trump raised the ante even further, saying that he had directed Robert E. Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, to pursue another $200 billion worth of tariffs.
China’s Commerce Ministry responded swiftly to Trump’s threat, issuing a statement on its website that warned that if the Trump administration followed through, China would “have to adopt comprehensive measures combining quantity and quality to make a strong countermeasure.”
The rapid succession of trade threats has left little time for negotiations that could potentially defuse tensions between the two countries.
Whether President Xi Jinping of China agrees to bend to Trump’s demands remains an open question. With his latest move, Trump has escalated his trade threats to such a level that China can now no longer issue a proportional response. Last year, the United States exported only $130.4 billion of goods to China in total.