- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Chinese officials said Wednesday they are prepared to retaliate if President Trump carries out his threat to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Beijing’s exports to the U.S.

Mr. Trump plans to boost the tariffs from 10% to 25% Friday, claiming that Beijing is reneging on earlier negotiations.

China’s commerce ministry said it will respond in kind, raising tensions ahead of trade talks on Thursday and Friday in Washington between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. negotiators.

“The escalation of trade friction is not in the interests of the people of the two countries and the people of the world,” the ministry said on its web page. “The Chinese side deeply regrets that if the U.S. tariff measures are implemented, China will have to take necessary countermeasures.”

Negotiators from the Trump administration and China have been working for months to strike a trade deal that addresses a host of issues, including complaints that China gains an advantage over the U.S. by stealing American technology and demanding private companies’ trade secrets.

The latest bickering is a sharp turn, however.

Mr. Trump had been saying publicly in recent weeks that he intended to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House soon, suggesting a final agreement was near.

Instead, renewed tensions have rattled world financial markets, especially in China, where stocks fell more than 5% in a single day earlier this week.

Administration officials aren’t backing down, saying the U.S. won’t renegotiate commitments that were already made. They intend to increase duties on Chinese imports at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

China has chosen to retreat from specific commitments agreed to in earlier rounds,” the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a notice to the Federal Register. “In light of the lack of progress in discussions with China, the president has directed the trade representative to increase the rate of additional duty to 25 percent.”

Mr. Trump says the tariffs are inflicting financial pain on China, though economists say the burden largely falls on U.S. importers, who then pass the higher costs onto American consumers.

The president on Wednesday said he’s “very happy” to continue his barrage of tariffs, while throwing a political wrinkle into the squabble.

Mr. Trump asserted the Chinese were pulling back because they’d rather negotiate with “Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to ripoff the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come.”

“Guess what, that’s not going to happen!” he wrote.

Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield highlighted that pain in a response to Mr. Trump’s broadside.

“Unfortunately, the only people @realdonaldtrump has gotten tough w/ so far on trade are US farmers, small business owners & consumers, who feel the brunt of his tariff war,” she wrote on Twitter.

She said Mr. Biden, the former vice president and Democratic front-runner in the 2020 primary, will “invest in our core strengths & ensure that US & our allies write rules of the road re: China.”

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