President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods may be raised from 10% to 25% on Friday, as trade talks between the U.S. and China progress were going "too slowly."
“Is it a typical Trump trade strategy just ahead of a conclusion?” questioned Jim Wiesemeyer of Pro Farmer. “Some China watchers say Trump's latest tweet is likely to put pressure on both sides to reach an accord by the end of the week and to reassure China hawks in Washington that he will not settle for a weak deal.”
However, Trump's aggressive tweets indicate a major change in tone from Trump and other administration officials, and Trump himself, who have been upbeat over the past few days regarding ongoing trade negotiations with China.
In February, U.S. Trade representative Bob Lighthizer told Congress that the U.S. had temporarily dropped its plans to raise the tariff rate to 25%, as the two sides were in talks to strike a deal.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, along with more than 100 Chinese officials, are coming to Washington on Wednesday for trade talks with their U.S. counterparts. Some say it would not be a good sign if China reduced the number of people coming following Trump’s remarks, Wiesemeyer said.
A Reason for Renewed Aggressiveness?
Trump’s latest comments may be related to reports of Chinese officials backing off of agreements the U.S. negotiating team believed they had completed. According to Wiesemeyer, Lighthizer thought last week's talks in Beijing did not yield enough Chinese concessions.
Still, the U.S. goal for the week is to complete an agreement. U.S. and China officials have signaled they want to finalize an agreement this week, Wiesemeyer said, setting the stage for a “signing summit” between Trump and Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, possibly in mid- to late-June.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “There have been many times that the U.S. side has threatened to increase tariffs. China’s positions are clear, and the U.S. side is well aware of them. [We have hoped] to make progress in our trade talks and [we] hope the U.S. side can work together with us and move in the same direction so we can achieve a deal that can benefit both sides.”
U.S. farmers, financial-market investors and most business leaders want to see a rollback in tariffs, if not total elimination of the trade tariffs, Wiesemeyer said. Many believe this is needed for greater certainty in U.S.-Chinese ties.
“Some industry officials and lobbyists want the U.S. to continue negotiating toward something better if their priorities aren’t fully addressed in what appears to be an emerging deal,” he added. “And, sources say, Trump is closely monitoring those push-for-more suggestions.”