Trade war? What trade war?
Just weeks after Donald Trump declared that trade wars were good and easy to win, his administration sought to ease concerns over a brewing standoff over tariffs on China, with the president tweeting Sunday that Beijing ultimately will take down its trade barriers “because it is the right thing to do.”
“President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade. China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do,” the president tweeted on Sunday. “Taxes will become Reciprocal & a deal will be made on Intellectual Property. Great future for both countries!”
The president’s tweet was part of a chorus of administration officials seeking to soothe markets, during a week where the Dow plunged by 724 points — the fifth largest point decline in its history — amid fear that Trump’s tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports would spark a full-on trade war.
“We don’t think there will be a trade war. Our objective is to continue to have discussions with China,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan. “We want to have free and fair reciprocal trade. We’re just looking for our companies and our workers to have a level playing field.”
“Whatever happens in trade, I don’t expect it to have a meaningful impact on our economy,” he added.
“We’re clear-eyed about this. We’re moving forward on a measured way with tariffs, with investment restrictions,” Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, told NBC’s Meet the Press. “What we want from China is very clear. We want fair and reciprocal trade.”
The rhetoric is a marked change from just last week, when the administration threatened to impose tariffs on $100 billion worth of Chinese goods, in addition to the tariffs already imposed on $50 billion of Chinese products. The new tariff threats, which were made on Thursday, were met with fierce criticism from politicians in states where agriculture accounts for a large part of the economy.
“If he’s even half-serious, this is nuts,” Sen. Ben Sasse told the New York Times. “Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”
The 25 percent tariffs imposed by Beijing in response to Trump have hit U.S. agriculture hard, especially as they include items like pork and soybeans.
“As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate,” a Chinese Ministry of Commerce statement read last week.
“We hope that the U.S. side, with sense and long-term picture in mind, refrain from going further down the wrong path.”