A day after the U.S. listed hundreds of products from China that could be hit with new import tariffs, the Chinese government slapped new import duties on American soybeans and other products, fueling fears of a trade war, though President Donald Trump says that’s not what is happening.
“We are not in a trade war with China,” the President tweeted early on Wednesday morning, “that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.”
“When you’re already $500 billion down, you can’t lose!” the President said on Twitter, using his figure for the trade deficit with China, which experts say is actually in the $300 billion range.
In what was a refrain in his 2016 race for the White House, Mr. Trump argues that the U.S. must take stiff measures to ensure a level playing field on trade with China, which runs a trade surplus with the U.S.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Trade Representative released an exhaustive list of Chinese products which could be hit by up to $50 billion in new tariffs.
They included everything from biscuit ovens to gas compressors, snow blowers, milking machines, weaving looms, and much more.
After placing new duties on pork products last week, this time the Chinese targeted another major U.S. farm export, proposing to raise tariffs on American soybeans and more.
The move only increased worries among farm groups, concerned that they will be hurt by the President’s efforts to help the U.S. steel and aluminum industries, which were the beneficiary of Mr. Trump’s first move on tariffs.
It even pushed one farm group to put out a TV ad with a Trump supporter, imploring the President to change course:
The concern also ricocheted into the halls of Congress.
“The Administration knew that if it imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, China would retaliate against U.S. agriculture,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). “I warned President Trump as much in a White House meeting in February.”
“We must address China’s theft of technology and intellectual property,” said Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), “but we can’t harm US businesses and workers.”
“Agriculture should not pay the price for a steel tariff trade war,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
But administration officials downplayed the Chinese reaction, saying it was expected.
“This is not World War III,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on CNBC, saying the Chinese tariffs are hardly “life-threatening.”