Mr. Trump’s sharp words come ahead of a gathering this weekend of finance ministers of the Group of 20 countries in Argentina, where Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is expected to get an earful of criticism about Mr. Trump’s trade policies.
In a slew of trade actions, the president has already imposed tariffs on roughly 4 percent of American imports, including foreign steel, aluminum, washing machines and solar-power products, and a variety of goods from China. But he has threatened to greatly escalate that number, expanding tariffs to cover roughly a quarter of what the United States imports.
The United States has imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese products, and soon plans to add tariffs to an additional $16 billion, in a high-stakes bid to pressure China to change trade practices that the White House says are unfair. The Chinese government responded by placing its own tariffs on $34 billion of American products, and so far it has been unwilling to bend to the pressure.
In an interview with CNBC that aired Friday, the president described the tit-for-tat threats on China as a poker game and said he was ready to place tariffs on $500 billion of Chinese imports — the total amount of goods China sends to the United States each year. He added that the trade conflict was “the right thing to do for our country.”
“I raised 50, and they matched us,” he said. “I said, ‘You don’t match us. You can’t match us because otherwise we’re always going to be behind the 8-ball.’”
The trade actions have invited retaliation from Europe, Mexico, Canada and other countries, as well as China, taking a heavy toll on major American exporters, including farmers. In another Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump defended his strategy.
“Farmers have been on a downward trend for 15 years,” he said. “The price of soybeans has fallen 50% since 5 years before the Election. A big reason is bad (terrible) Trade Deals with other countries. They put on massive Tariffs and Barriers. Canada charges 275% on Dairy. Farmers will WIN!”