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Trump Threatens To Slap $100 Billion In Additional Tariffs On China


We are following the latest volleys this morning in a growing trade war between the United States and China. Yesterday, President Trump directed his U.S. trade representative to look at tariffs on another $100 billion on Chinese goods. Yesterday in West Virginia, the president said these tariffs are necessary to stop Chinese companies from stealing U.S. research.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have our intellectual property, and a lot of people don't understand what that means. And it doesn't matter if you understand it or not. You understand the concept of being taken advantage of, and we can't be taken advantage of any longer. So we're at a point where we had to do this.

GREENE: President Trump speaking in West Virginia yesterday. I want to bring in NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So were we expecting this to escalate more - for there to be more threatened tariffs from this White House?

HORSLEY: This sort of came out of the blue. You know, President Trump likes to think of himself as a counterpuncher. He's happiest when he's throwing the last punch and the hardest punch. Earlier this week, we had the U.S. fleshing out its threat to impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports. China countered with a threat of tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods. The stock market quivered. And then we had the new national economic director, Larry Kudlow, from the White House go out and try to soothe the stock market by saying, look, this is all just bargaining chips. We can probably work this out through negotiations. And the market did calm down.

Then, last evening, you had President Trump back on the trade warpath, asking his trade representative to look at tariffs on another $100 billion in Chinese goods. The trade representative said that's an appropriate response. So none of these new tariffs are in effect yet. But after appearing to step back from the brink of a trade war, now the administration seems to be stepping closer.

GREENE: And you say in effect - and some of these are just threats, but threats can move markets. So I mean, it's not like these are inconsequential even though they're not in effect yet.

HORSLEY: That's right. And you have China now saying, you know, they're ready to fight back at any cost. China says it's not seeking a trade war, but it's not afraid of a trade war. Part of this tit for tat is sort of positioning and finger pointing, each side saying the other started this. China said the U.S. fired the first salvo with its tariff threats. The U.S. says China started this with its mistreatment of U.S. intellectual property. If China were to match tariffs on another $100 billion in U.S. exports on top of the 50 billion they were already threatening, that would basically be tariffs on every last item that the U.S. sends to China.

GREENE: Oh, wow. Everything that goes. So many things to ask you about in terms of potential impact here, Scott. But U.S. farmers - you know, soybean farmers in Iowa and elsewhere have been very nervous about this. I remember the president at a farm event a couple months ago said that, you know, he stands by American farmers. Is the White House saying anything about how they'll help farmers if they do get hit with this?

HORSLEY: Well, a little bit. And farmers are very much in the crosshairs here, partly for economic reasons. Farm exports are a big part of overall U.S. exports, and also farm country is Trump country. So this is a way for China to hit the president where it hurts. The president has asked his agriculture secretary to come up with a plan to protect farmers, but there's no indication what that might look like. I mean, are we talking about sort of crop insurance for what is here a man-made potential disaster?

GREENE: All right. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley joining us this morning. Scott, thanks.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.