Trump Floats Chinese Goods Tariff of More Than 60% if Elected

Former President Donald Trump speaks during CPAC at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 28, 2021. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

(Bloomberg News/TNS) – Former President Donald Trump said he might impose a tariff on Chinese goods of more than 60% if elected, signaling an increasingly hawkish tone against the top supplier of goods to the U.S.

Asked about a Washington Post report that he was considering a flat 60% tariff on Chinese goods imports, Trump said “no, I would say maybe it’s going to be more than that” in an interview on Fox News Sunday morning.

Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, rejected criticism that the moves would start a trade war, saying that he “did great with China with everything” during his presidency.

“Well, you have to do it,” Trump said, referring to imposing tariffs. “You know, obviously I’m not looking to hurt China. I want to get along with China. I think it’s great. But they’ve really taken advantage of our country.”

The Trump administration began imposing tariffs aimed at curbing imports of Chinese goods in early 2018, eventually escalating to duties on goods ranging from seafood to chemicals by the fall of that year. China responded with retaliatory levies on U.S. imports including soybeans, wheat and poultry.

The policies have largely been kept in place under the Biden administration, prompting criticism by business groups that the tariffs have driven up prices and undermined U.S. competitiveness. Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, including those aimed more broadly than at China, amounted to an $80 billion tax increase on $380 billion worth of imports in 2018-19 according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based research group.

The U.S. has been China’s biggest export market for more than 20 years, including $536 billion in exports in 2022.

Curbing economic ties between the world’s two largest economies is gaining support from some U.S. lawmakers, led by Republican Representative Mike Gallagher and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, who recommended raising tariffs and restricting Chinese investment in a House committee report in December.

The Post report on Jan. 27 sparked currency hedges by traders bracing for any market turbulence that policies under a second Trump presidency could set off.

Trump also made light of his comment at a Fox News town hall in Iowa in December, where he suggested he’d be a dictator “for day one” if he were elected to a second term in November. Asked about the comment on Sunday, he said it was meant to signal immediate action on the U.S.-Mexico border and fossil fuels.

“It’s very simple,” he said. “I’m going to close the border and we’re going to drill, baby, drill. That’s all. And then after that, I’m not going to be a dictator. Now, that was said in jest.”

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