- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The U.S. could impose new tariffs on China “if we want,” President Trump said Tuesday, warning there’s a “long way to go” in sealing a trade pact as the Chinese drag their feet on a commitment to American farmers.

Mr. Trump said China was supposed to buy agricultural products in exchange for a pause on levies against $300 billion in imports.

“They are supposed to be buying farm products. Let’s see whether or not they do,” Mr. Trump told his Cabinet at a White House meeting.

The comments caused stock markets to slide from record highs earlier in the day, as investors fear a protracted trade dispute that could lead to a global economic slowdown.

Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China stalled in the spring, after the White House accused their counterparts of reneging on previously negotiated details.

“I wish they didn’t break the deal that we had,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, saying it would bring China back to the table, as companies move their operations elsewhere.

He renewed his threat Tuesday to slap levies on nearly all Chinese goods, despite signs of a thaw during the Group of 20 summit in Japan last month.

At the time, Mr. Trump said he would allow U.S. companies to sell some components to Chinese tech company Huawei, causing consternation among lawmakers who fear the company is too cozy with the country’s Communist government. Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress moved Tuesday to write the Commerce Department’s restrictions on doing business with Huawei into law.

Also, in exchange for holding off on new tariffs, Mr. Trump said June 29 in Osaka: “China’s going to be buying a tremendous amount of food and agricultural product. And they’re going to start that very soon, almost immediately.”

Mr. Trump last week said those purchases haven’t occurred, and he insists that existing tariffs are a net benefit for Americans — despite concerns that importers pass along the costs to consumers.

The president also revived his complaints about the Federal Reserve, saying its refusal to cut interest rates leaves him exposed to economic woes, while others find ways to cushion the blow.

“In Europe, the rates are almost zero. And in China, the rates are whatever President Xi wants — he’s his own Fed. He’s the Federal Reserve. One man. He’s the Federal Reserve. He’s the president. He’s everything else,” Mr. Trump said.

The president said farmers caught in the middle of the trade war will be compensated, citing the $16 billion bailout he has already approved.

“The farmers don’t even want that,” he said. “They really just want to make the product and sell it, but it was just a small percentage of the tariffs that we’re taking in.”

As negotiators try to work out a deal, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said they want assurance that Mr. Trump won’t backslide on Huawei.

They fear the Chinese government will use its power and ties to snoop on American interests through the firm’s gear. The company denies the charge, though hard-liners such as Sen. Tom Cotton aren’t swayed.

“American companies shouldn’t be in the business of selling our enemies the tools they’ll use to spy on Americans,” said the Arkansas Republican, a lead sponsor of the bill to codify restrictions on the company.

The U.S. has pressed foreign nations to avoid using Huawei as they build their cutting-edge 5G networks. Some allies have resisted, saying they fear the U.S. will cut a side deal with the company as part of a settlement to the U.S.-China trade war.

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