Trump Takes to Twitter to Defend His China Tariffs

As lawmakers grow more and more uneasy about the effect on upcoming elections.

Matt Rourke/AP

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President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods has been widely unpopular. Even so, on Wednesday, Trump decided to up the ante: He ordered his administration to consider raising the rate from 10 percent to 25 percent.

The response from China didn’t take long. “The blackmailing and pressure by the US will never work on China if the US take[s] measures to further escalate the situation we will surely take countermeasures to firmly uphold our legitimate rights and interests,” the country’s foreign ministry spokesman said at a press briefing that day. Sure enough, by Friday, China announced it would tax $60 billion a year worth of US imports if Trump made good on his promise.

On Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to brag about the levies:

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern about an escalating trade war with China. A top Federal Reserve official warned two weeks ago that the conflict could hurt the US economy, Reuters reported. “Business groups have alleged that the trade threats lobbed by both countries are hurting consumers and businesses but doing little to address the root causes of the imbalance, particularly as both countries have halted formal discussions,” the Washington Post reports.

Farmers across the country—especially those harvesting large-scale commodities like soybeans, pork, corn, and almonds—worry that the tariffs could upend their industries. A White House plan that would send $12 billion in subsidies their way was met with protest, even from groups funded by the conservative American Farm Bureau. “Crops don’t grow overnight,” stated Farmers for Free Trade. “Farmers and producers need time and long-term certainty to do their jobs, not constant chaos created by haphazard trade policy.”

The chaos promises to make its way into the upcoming midterm elections. “Trump’s trade war becoming a hot potato for California House Republicans,” read the headline of a San Francisco Chronicle story from earlier this week.

Several of the most competitive House face-offs will occur in the state’s agriculture-heavy counties: California Republicans Rep. Jeff Denham and Rep. David Valadao both land on the Cook Political Report’s list of most competitive races

From what we know so far, Trump’s $12 billion in subsidies—his attempt to make up for farmer losses from the trade war—would not cover almond or citrus farmers. As my colleague Tom Philpott pointed out, two-thirds of California’s $5 billion almond crop go to foreign markets, and China is the second-leading destination. The situation could lead to a growing swarm of angry voters that could sting vulnerable GOP candidates in California come November. “There is a point in this tariff war where the damage cannot be undone,” Elaine Trevino, president of the Almond Alliance of California, told the Chronicle.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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