President Donald Trump proclaimed that “Tariffs are the greatest!” in warning U.S. trade partners that he’ll impose more sanctions unless they negotiate a "fair deal" as negotiations with European officials are to get underway at the White House.
And he noted nations are now coming to Washington to negotiate after having treated the U.S. "unfairly on trade for years."
Trump’s tweet Tuesday comes as he’s scheduled to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Washington on Wednesday for talks aimed at heading off a trade war, and as he continues to deal with domestic fallout from his deference to Vladimir Putin last week over Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Juncker won’t have a “great deal” or offer in hand when he arrives at the White House but will instead be trying to sound out Trump on approaches to resolving the dispute, Bloomberg reported, citing a European official who asked for anonymity to preview the meeting.
Juncker will suggest two paths, one of which is a deal among major auto exporting nations including the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada to reduce tariffs on cars. The other would be a free trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union covering industrial goods, which would amount to a narrower version of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pursued by the Obama administration, the European official said.
Trump has been critical of the EU over its $150 billion trade surplus with the U.S. But Europe is only one front in Trump’s attacks on trading partners. Earlier this month, the president imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods, with similar penalties on an additional $16 billion worth of products expected to go into effect shortly and he’s threatened levies on an additional $200 billion of Chinese products in the next month.
House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed reservations that tariffs were the best approach.
“I just don’t think the tariff route is the smart way to go,” Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. Ryan added that while Trump is seeking “a better deal for Americans, better trade agreements -- I just don’t think tariffs are the way to go, and our members are making that pretty clear.”
U.S. companies and industry groups are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the impact of Trump’s tariffs. More than 80 witnesses are scheduled to testify during a two-day trade hearing starting in Washington Tuesday focused on products from resins and chemicals to large freight containers, electric bicycles and vaping devices. Most of the companies and business groups that have filed comments are seeking to have goods spared from duties on grounds the tariffs are ultimately a tax on consumers and hamstrings them with their global supply chains.
Trump's claims were met with other criticism as well.
“Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers,” Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul wrote on Twitter. “If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs.”
(Newsmax wire services Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report).
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