Trump Slams Critics of Trade and Tariff Strategy

July 25, 2018 Updated: July 25, 2018    

President Donald Trump fired back at critics of his approach to trade and tariffs on July 25 a day after politicians attacked his administration’s plan to give $12 billion in aid to American farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs.

Senior officials at the Department of Agriculture described the aid as temporary relief for farmers impacted by retaliatory tariffs while U.S. trade representative negotiates long-term deals. On July 24, Trump called for patience and the need to “stick it out.”

Several Republicans were nonetheless critical of the aid plan. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) referred to the aid as “welfare for farmers.” Trump responded to the critics in a series of tweets.

“Every time I see a weak politician asking to stop Trade talks or the use of Tariffs to counter unfair Tariffs, I wonder, what can they be thinking? Are we just going to continue and let our farmers and country get ripped off? Lost $817 Billion on Trade last year. No weakness!” Trump wrote.

“When you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation, it will only take longer to make a deal, and the deal will never be as good as it could have been with unity,” Trump added. “Negotiations are going really well, be cool. The end result will be worth it!”

The Department of Agriculture aid plan includes three programs. One program will provide funds to farmers producing commodities directly impacted by retaliatory tariffs, including soybeans, corn, and cotton. The second program will buy surplus products, including fruit, nuts, and dairy, and distribute them to food pantries and other programs. The third program will help farmers find new export markets for their crops.

Trump is leveraging tariffs to negotiate better trade deals with China, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The president imposed a tariff on $34 billion worth of goods from China and levied duties on steel and aluminum imported from around a world, with a few exceptions.

The trade partners responded with tariffs of their own, targeting a range of goods with a particular focus on agriculture. China imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of American goods in a tit-for-tat move. Trump promptly ordered a review of an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to target for import duties.

“China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S. They are being vicious in what will be their failed attempt,” Trump wrote. “We were being nice – until now! China made $517 Billion on us last year.”

The bulk of the criticism of Trump’s approach to trade and tariffs centers on the fact that tariffs are a double-edged sword which hurts both the foreign country and Americans. Ideologically, Republicans are proponents of free trade.

Trump is a proponent of free trade but sees tariffs as a necessary pressure to get trade partners to lower their trade barriers and tariffs. Trump made a free trade offer to the European Union via Twitter ahead of a visit by Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.

“The European Union is coming to Washington tomorrow to negotiate a deal on Trade. I have an idea for them. Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all Tariffs, Barriers and Subsidies!” Trump wrote. “That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade! Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!”

Trump told Juncker at the White House that the United States “would be extremely pleased if there were no tariffs or trade barriers with the EU. At a minimum, tariffs should be “reciprocal in nature,” the president added.

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