Trump Threatens ‘Retaliation’ If China Targets U.S. Farmers

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump threatened to hit back if China targets politically potent U.S. agricultural products for counter-tariffs, following an escalation in his trade war with Beijing.

“There will be great and fast economic retaliation against China if our farmers, ranchers and/or industrial workers are targeted!” Trump said in a tweet Tuesday morning.

Trump ordered his administration to levy 10 percent tariffs on about $200 billion in Chinese goods next week and to more than double the rate in January if Beijing refuses to offer trade concessions. The Chinese said they would retaliate for the latest round of duties, which come on top of a 25 percent tariff already imposed on about $50 billion in Chinese goods.

That includes retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods that will take effect on Sept. 24, China’s Ministry of Finance said Tuesday in a statement posted to its website. China has also filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the U.S. tariffs. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters declined to comment on the Chinese actions, but pointed to a pair of tweets Tuesday morning by the president threatening further escalation of the dispute.

The president’s posts appeared to recognize the potential political harm to him and his party if China targets American agriculture. Republicans are facing long odds in their quest to retain control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections, and their narrow advantage in the Senate will hinge largely on winning seats in states where agriculture is a significant industry.

The 10 percent U.S. tariff will take effect on Sept. 24, and an escalation to 25 percent in January was delayed in order to give U.S. companies an opportunity to adjust their supply chains, two senior administration officials said in a briefing for reporters on Monday. Trump has demanded that the Chinese take steps to narrow the country’s trade surplus with the U.S. and also cease trade practices that he maintains have forced American companies to surrender technology if they want access to China’s markets.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.