President Donald Trump threatened Friday to slap tariffs on all of the Chinese goods imported into the US, ramping up the already tense trade relations with Beijing amid ongoing talks with Canada and the EU.
His comments, which contradicted the more diplomatic remarks earlier Friday from his top economic adviser, sent the stock market plunging amid fears of the economic damage that could result from the multi-front trade war he pursues.
The US already has punitive tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods in place and another $200 billion are “in the hopper” and “could take place very soon,” Trump said.
But he told reporters travelling with him to Fargo, North Dakota that “behind that, there’s another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want.”
That would cover virtually all the goods imported from the world’s second largest economy.
“That totally changes the equation,” Trump said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow just hours before said talks with Beijing were continuing to try to defuse the conflict, and that he was hopeful that a solution could be found.
And there have been more positive signs in talks with North American partners as well as with the European Union.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer held another day of meetings with Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement, after reaching a deal last week with Mexico.
However, Freeland left Washington without a deal in hand and the schedule for any future talks was uncertain.
Lighthizer is due to meet Monday in Brussels with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.