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Trump increases China tariffs as stocks tumble amid latest trade tensions

President posts odd tweet blaming markets’ jitters on largely unknown House Democrat

A container ship sits docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, California. President Donald Trump and China traded barbs again Friday in an escalating trade battle that has prompted global recession fears. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A container ship sits docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, California. President Donald Trump and China traded barbs again Friday in an escalating trade battle that has prompted global recession fears. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Capping an extraordinary day of major power muscle-flexing and more odd presidential behavior, Donald Trump on Friday answered a tariffs threat from Beijing by increasing coming import duties on $550 billion worth of Chinese-made items.

“Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very….” he wrote in a tweet before adding in another: “..unfair Trading Relationship. China should not have put new Tariffs on 75 BILLION DOLLARS of United States product (politically motivated!).”

The president followed through on a promise made in a series of angry morning tweets that came in response to the Chinese government threatening — in response to his tough tariffs-based tactics aimed at reviving stalled trade tals — to impose import duties of the own on $75 billion worth of U.S.-made goods. That list included crude oil and automobiles, and clearly upset the U.S. president.

Trump took to Twitter at 5 p.m. EDT sharp to announce he will increase import duties on $250 billion worth of Chinese-made items from 25 percent to 30 percent and raised tariffs on another batch of goods from 10 percent to 15 percent. The former is effective Oct. 1 and the latter on Sept. 1. He made both announcements on Twitter, where he helped further rattle markets earlier by lashing out at China and the Federal Reserve.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3 percent of its value after a 623-point drop. The S&P 500 index was down 75 points, losing 2.59 percent of its value on Friday alone. Markets have been volatile for weeks as Washington and Beijing have gone back-and-forth, with no clear answer as to where the trade battle is heading.

Trump also raised new alarms about his mental state when he posted a joking tweet that blamed the stock drop on a relatively unknown Massachusetts House Democrat, Seth Moulton, who dropped out of his party’s 2020 presidential primary as indexes lost value. Moulton ran on a centrist, pro-military platform that never ignited the Democratic base, on Friday became the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to drop out of the race.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham had not responded to an inquiry about why the president was joking about a stock market decline that could affect millions of people.

The president, whose public schedule ahead of a late-night departure to a G7 summit in France featured only a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, lashed out at China Friday morning after it threatened to slap tariffs on $75 billion worth of American goods that include crude oil and automobiles.

It was the latest escalation in a tit-for-tat that economists worry is pushing the world to the brink of a global economic slowdown. And stock indexes quickly took notice of yet another back-and-forth between the two economic giants, with U.S. markets taking another tumble.

Trump himself has tried to publicly downplay such fears at home, saying the U.S. economy is historically “strong” while those of other countries are tanking. On Friday, he took aim at Beijing as his frustration with its willingness to hit back at his tariffs-based approach to reviving stalled trade negotiations bled into public.

“We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP.”

In the flurry of angry mid-morning tweets, Trump appeared to declare actions beyond the powers of his office, again making bold-but-vague declarations amid warnings of an economic recession and poll numbers that suggest an uphill reelection fight.

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing our companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” he wrote without explaining which authorities of the Office of the President or laws grant any chief executive the power to give or enforce such a mandate.

Trump then told his over 60 million followers that he would be “ordering” the independent U.S. Postal Service and private companies like FedEx, Amazon and UPS to refuse to transport packages from China to the United States that contain Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid linked to the deaths of thousands of Americans. The Postal Service is an independent entity that is overseen by a board of governors; the postmaster general, as of 1971, is no longer a Cabinet member.

When Trump on Aug. 1 announced his administration would slap 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion of additional Chinese-made goods after Beijing failed to live up to an alleged commitment to buy more U.S. farm goods, he also criticized his “friend,” Chinese President Xi Jinping, for failing to clamp down on flows of Fentanyl from his country to the United States.

Hours before Trump announced his retaliation to Xi’s retaliation, Peter Navaro, White House’s Office of Trade and Manufacturing director, contended during a Fox Business interview that the Asian powerhouse’s move would only help Trump gin up public support for his trade policies as he revs up his reelection effort.

“I just think that the way that China is reacting to this whole thing is simply reinforcing America’s perception of China as a bad actor,” Navarro said. “When China tries to bully us, that only strengthens our resolve.”

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