US President Donald Trump is prepared to quickly ramp up a trade war with China and has told aides he is ready to impose tariffs on US$200 billion more in Chinese imports as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends next week, Bloomberg News reports, citing people familiar with the matter.
Asked to confirm the plan in an interview with Bloomberg in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump smiled and said it was “not totally wrong”.
Trump also said he would pull out of the World Trade Organization if it doesn’t treat the United States better.
“If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” Trump told Bloomberg. The president said the agreement establishing the body “was the single worst trade deal ever made”.
Stocks fell on the tariff news, with the S&P 500 testing the key 2,900 level. The offshore yuan dropped to the day’s low, while the dollar and the yen gained amid a flight to safety.
Bloomberg, citing its sources, said there is no final decision on the fresh tariffs yet.
Trump has credited his electoral success to his hard line on trade, which he has argued hurts US workers and favors foreign competitors, Reuters said. Washington is demanding Beijing improve market access and intellectual property protections for US companies, cut industrial subsidies and slash a US$375 billion trade gap.
The world’s two largest economies have already applied tariffs to US$50 billion of each other’s goods in a tit-for-tat trade war. Talks aimed at easing tensions ended last week without major breakthroughs.
The new proposed 25 percent tariffs would affect consumer products including home building supplies, technology products, bicycles and apparel.
A public comment period on the proposal is set to end on Sept. 6, and Trump plans to impose the tariffs after that deadline, Bloomberg said.
Trump, who has threatened to impose duties on virtually all of the more than US$500 billion of Chinese goods exported to the US each year, told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that resolving the trade war with China would “take time” and that he had “no time frame” for ending it.
The news came as US and Canadian officials stepped up the pace of their talks to resolve differences to meet a Friday deadline for a new North American Free Trade Agreement.
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