Amid continued controversy over his administration’s protectionist trade policies, President Donald Trump this week signaled that he is prepared to significantly expand the existing tariffs on products imported from China.
According to Reuters, he suggested that he is “ready” to impose duty on all of the Chinese goods sold in America.
“We’re down a tremendous amount,” Trump said in a CNBC interview on Friday.
He has frequently cited trade imbalances, particularly with China, as a reason for announcing tariffs.
In his latest remarks, the president said he is “ready to go to 500” with China, an apparent reference to the more than $500 billion in imported goods the U.S. received from that nation last year.
America’s trade deficit with China in 2017 was $376 billion, a trend that has continued into 2018. During the first five months of this year, the U.S. imported more than $200 billion for a trade imbalance of $152 billion.
Though many critics on both sides of the aisle have argued for freer trade policies, Trump has continued to dig in with the position he has endorsed since the campaign.
In addition to creating higher prices for American consumers, many economists have panned the tariffs because of historical evidence that such trade policies have contributed directly to economic catastrophes including the Great Depression.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the tariffs and associated rhetoric against China are not likely to end any time soon.
He said Trump is “not going to let go” of his belief that China is taking advantage of the U.S. through trade.
According to Kudlow, Chinese leader Xi Jinping bears the responsibility for leading America to take these steps.
“The problem here is Xi,” he said. “He doesn’t want to move, and they’ve offered the U.S. absolutely … no options regarding the issue of (intellectual property) theft and forced technology transfer.”
After an initial round of tariffs on $34 billion in imports, China retaliated by imposing dollar-for-dollar tariffs on American exports.
In the recent interview, Trump said he is not concerned about possible repercussions including a drop in the stock market.
“If it does, it does,” the president said. “I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country.”
Repeating a longstanding refrain, Trump went on to assert that American has “been ripped off by China for a long time.”
He echoed Kudlow’s assessment that China’s president is responsible for inequitable trade between the two nations.
“I don’t want them to be scared,” he said. “I want them to do well. I really like President Xi a lot, but it was very unfair.”