US President Donald Trump on Monday reiterated threats by his administration to decouple the US and Chinese economies, pledging to reward companies that move their operations out of China and raising the possibility of halting business with the country altogether.
“We will make America into the manufacturing superpower of the world and will end our reliance on China once and for all,” Trump told reporters. “Whether it’s decoupling, or putting in massive tariffs like I’ve been doing already, we will end our reliance in China, because we can’t rely on China.”
“When you mention the word ‘decouple’, it’s an interesting word,” Trump said, stopping short of explicitly committing to a full termination of economic relations with China. “We lose billions of dollars and if we didn’t do business with them we wouldn’t lose billions of dollars. It’s called decoupling, so you’ll start thinking about it.”
Appearing to refer to action items for a potential second term in office, Trump said his administration would roll out a “made in America” tax break and impose “tariffs” on US companies “that desert America to create jobs in China and other countries.”
The imposition of tariffs or other punitive measures against American companies would risk sparking opposition from many in the business community, who have already weathered a two-year trade war with China, on top of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The US Chamber of Commerce, which includes among its 3 million members manufacturing giants such as Ford Motor Company and tech industry leader IBM, has spoken out against tariff action that the Trump administration has taken against China and other trading partners.
“New tariffs on steel, aluminum, and Chinese imports, as well as the potential for additional tariffs on autos and auto parts, threaten to spark a global trade war,” according to the Chamber’s website. “Simply put, tariffs are a tax on American consumers and businesses. Tariffs are the wrong approach to address unfair trade practices.”
Trump argued on Monday that farmers were “very happy” with him, owing to agricultural bailouts his administration has distributed to offset sales they lost when China slapped punitive tariffs on US farm products in retaliation for the bilateral trade war that the US leader started in July 2018.
Recent analysis by CNBC showed that the latest round of federal relief generally benefited large farms, with some two-thirds of the cash going to the top 10 percent of agricultural producers earlier this year.
Yet despite the economic pain Trump’s trade war has unleashed on farmers, some 75 percent said they would vote for the incumbent leader if the election were held today, according to a recent poll by Farm Futures – up from 60 percent just after the trade war began in 2018.
In a press conference slated to address the state of the US economy but which turned into a meandering, campaign-style speech, Trump on Monday recycled familiar grievances – mostly economic – against China, and sought to portray his presidential challenger, Joe Biden, as incapable of standing up to leaders in Beijing.
“If Biden wins, China wins, because China will own this country,” said Trump, speaking from the White House’s North Portico, part of the official residence rarely used for press briefings, much less partisan political attacks.
Repeating a common refrain of his political attacks against Biden, who has also toughened his stance against Beijing as November approaches, Trump suggested that the former vice president would be beholden to the Chinese government because of his son’s former business dealings in the country.
The US leader also reiterated familiar complaints that China had built up its economy and military on money stolen from the US via an unbalanced trading relationship.
“It’s very lucky that I have been building [the US military] up because otherwise we’d be dwarfed right now by China,” he said, going on to trumpet the scope of Washington’s nuclear arsenal in comparison to Beijing’s.
Trump also said his administration was “looking at the World Trade Organisation” (WTO), threatening to “ship out” if the United Nations trading body did not “shape up”.
In particular, he bemoaned China’s status within the WTO as a developing country (a determination that affords it certain privileges), and said that the US should be given the same label because of the state of some “Democrat-run cities”.
“We’re not fully developed as far as I’m concerned, when you look around at Portland and you see what these Democrats are doing to our cities,” he said. The city in Oregon is one of numerous across the country that has seen sustained protests over systemic racism and police brutality.
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