President Trump threatened to further escalate the ongoing trade war by placing tariffs on all $505 billion in Chinese goods imported to the U.S. during a Friday appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“I’m ready to go to 500,” Trump told CNBC’s Joe Kernen, referring to the $505 billion in Chinese goods imported to the U.S. in 2017.
While the administration is at work comprising a list of $200 billion in Chinese goods to be hit with tariffs if negotiations don’t progress, thus far only $34 billion in Chinese imports have been taxed. The Chinese have retaliated dollar-for-dollar and vowed to continue to do so.
However, if the trade war continues to escalate, Beijing will eventually be unable to respond to U.S. tariffs due to the existing trade deficit, which the Trump administration is working to reduce. The U.S. exported $129.9 billion in goods to China last year, which means the Trump administration has more than $3.5 billion worth of additional goods at its disposal to hit with tariffs absent Chinese retaliation.
Despite concern among congressional Republicans and the business community, Trump has shown no indication that he plans to deescalate before the onset of a complete trade war that significantly harms both economies.
“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.”
During the interview, Trump insisted he harbors no ill-will toward the Chinese but believes, as he often repeated on the campaign trail, that the U.S. is being “taken advantage of” in its relationship with Beijing.
“I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” he said. “I really like President Xi a lot, but it was very unfair.”
Washington and Beijing have not engaged in trade negotiations in weeks. Asked about China’s willingness to wait the Trump administration out, given their notoriously long time horizon and ability to prop up their state-run economy, chief White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told Axios that Beijing would be underestimating Trump’s resolve if they choose that option.
“They’re picking the wrong customer, I’ll tell you that — you know how intense he is on this issue,” Kudlow said. “Xi seems to think if he waits out the November elections, Trump will be weakened and therefore will lighten the bite. That’s a very bad bet.”