WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and his allies again assured the country Sunday morning that they do not expect China to actually implement threatened tariffs that could rock the U.S. economy and hurt American farmers, especially those who grow soybeans or raise hogs.
“China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do,” Trump said in a tweet Sunday morning. “Taxes will become Reciprocal & a deal will be made on Intellectual Property. Great future for both countries!”
In interviews on Sunday morning talk shows, administration officials defended the president’s trade approach and emerging policy with regard to China. Both China and the United States have threatened to levy new tariffs on each other, in an escalating trade dispute.
“No president has had the backbone to take it up publicly before,” Larry Kudlow, the new chairman of the National Economic Council, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “So, I think he is exactly right. And I say to everybody on this, the problem here is China. It is not President Trump. China has been getting away with this for decades.”
Kudlow said a “coalition of the willing” was being formed to pressure President Xi Jinping, including by taking the issue to the World Trade Organization, to crack down on China’s trade practices. Kudlow declined to release a full list of countries involved during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” but he said Australia, Canada and much of Europe were among them.
Administration officials tried to tamp down growing concerns about the impact of a trade war on farmers. They suggested the trade dispute may be resolved through negotiations and that the “process may turn out to be very benign,” according to Kudlow.
But they said they plan on moving forward on new tariffs on China.
“We’re listening to the Chinese. We’re willing to work with them,” Peter Navarro, director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“But we’re clear-eyed about this. We’re moving forward on a measured way with tariffs, with investment restrictions,” Navarro added. “What we want from China is very clear. We want fair and reciprocal trade.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to comment on the substance of trade talks with China during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” And he sought to head off concerns that protectionist trade policies would disrupt the growth of the U.S. economy.
“Whatever happens in trade, I don’t expect it to have a meaningful impact on our economy. And the president has said — sectors like agriculture, he’s prepared to defend,” Mnuchin said.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, warned that new tariffs on American products could cripple farmers in his state, which relies heavily on exporting soybeans — the state’s second-largest crop.
“We’re talking about a lot of money that goes down, just on the speculation of having a tariff put in place,” Rounds said on “Meet the Press.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, acknowledged that U.S. industries may take a short-term hit in the trade dispute, saying “There is no way for us to address China without absorbing some pain here.” But he defended Trump’s plans as a sound long-term strategy.
“At the end of the day, the president promised if he got to be president he would push back against China,” Graham said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.” “That’s exactly what he’s doing. They’re pushing back against us. I like our chances of prevailing if we stick with it.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, sounded notes of both praise and caution for Trump’s protectionist trade policies.
“I think we need a more nuanced approach, but I give the president credit for levying these tariffs against the Chinese, with whom we’ve talked for a decade about their unfair trade practices,” Collins said on “State of the Union.”
She added, “This is costing us jobs in this country, and we do need to get tough with China. But we need to do so in a way that we do not spark a trade war.” Collins called it a “very delicate balancing act.”
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