clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump escalates the US-China trade war by announcing tariff hikes — on Twitter

His Friday announcement ups the ante even as worries about a potential recession continue to grow.

President Donald Trump onstage speaking into a microphone.
US President Donald Trump speaks at the American Veterans 75th National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 21, 2019. 
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

The US-China trade war just keeps on escalating.

President Donald Trump on Friday announced increased tariffs in response to penalties China had levied that morning on $75 billion worth of US products — a wave of tariffs that were themselves a Chinese response to earlier US penalties.

These latest US levies, a development Trump waited to announce until after the stock market had closed, raise existing penalties on $250 billion in goods being imported from China to a 30 percent tax. They also levy an extra 5 percent tax — for a total of 15 percent — on another $300 billion in products that were set to be taxed starting September 1. The tariff hikes on the former goods are slated to go into effect on October 1.

Trump’s move ups the ante on an increasingly tense trade war that’s causing growing fallout in the stock market. In anticipation of these taxes, the Dow dropped more than 600 points on Friday after Trump tweeted out a threat earlier in the day. As Vox’s Jen Kirby has reported, Trump may be reacting to China’s latest moves now, but the country’s recent tariffs were actually in response to actions he had previously taken:

China, of course, is pushing back against Trump’s own levies. The president in August announced 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese products starting September 1, which, when combined with previous tariffs, effectively taxes nearly all Chinese goods.

Friday’s announcement builds off several earlier rounds of tariffs that Trump had previously laid out. Last fall, the US levied a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion in Chinese imports, with a focus on products that are predominately sold to businesses. This past May, the administration raised that tax to a 25 percent tariff. (Those are the goods that will now be taxed at 30 percent.) Additionally, Trump set another 10 percent tariff to go into effect on September 1 on $300 billion in Chinese goods, a tax that’s expected to affect more consumer products. (Those goods will now be taxed at 15 percent.)

Before China announced its retaliatory tariffs Friday, Trump had said he would delay some of the tariffs slated for September 1 due to concerns that they would slow spending during the holiday season. Those tariffs applied to popular consumer goods including cellphones and clothing and are now scheduled for December 15, a timeline his Friday tweets did not comment on.

Trump’s use of tariffs is part of a larger protectionist strategy he’s employed in what he says is an effort to bring jobs back to the US, curb the US trade deficit, and hold China accountable for alleged intellectual property abuses. But as Vox’s Kirby noted, the world’s two largest economies don’t seem set to resolve their differences anytime soon:

China’s latest move is a reminder that Washington and Beijing are no closer to ending this economic brinksmanship or signing any sort of deal. China and the US are supposed to resume trade talks in September, but no date has been set yet.

Given the uncertainty plaguing not only the US economy but other economies around the world — including Germany and China — Trump’s ongoing spat over tariffs does little to ease worries about a potential recession, even if investors won’t fully react to the news until Monday.