WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump angrily escalated his trade fight with China on Friday, raising retaliatory tariffs and ordering American companies to consider alternatives to doing business there.
He blamed Jerome Powell, the man he appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve, for the state of the domestic economy, wondering who was a “bigger enemy” of the U.S. — Powell or Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Even by the turbulent standards of the Trump presidency, his actions, all done via Twitter, were notable, sending markets sharply lower and adding to a sense of uncertainty on the eve of his trip to France for a meeting of global economic powers.
Trump’s move occurred after Beijing announced Friday morning that it had raised taxes on U.S. products. He huddled with advisers, firing off tweets that attacked China and the Fed. And he mockingly attributed a Wall Street drop of 573 points to the withdrawal of a marginal candidate from the Democratic presidential race. The Dow Jones average eventually closed down 623 points.
The president attacked the Fed for not lowering rates at an informal gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where no such action was under consideration. Powell, speaking to central bankers, gave vague assurances that the Fed would act to sustain the nation’s economic expansion, but noted that the central bank had limited tools to deal with damage from the trade dispute.
Trump said he would be raising planned tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods from 10% to 15%. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also said existing tariffs on another $250 billion in Chinese imports would go from 25% to 30% on Oct. 1 after receiving feedback from the public.
The impact could be sweeping for consumers.
“With each percentage point added to the tariff hikes, it becomes more and more difficult for importers not to pass the costs on to the U.S. consumer,” said Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade negotiator now at the Asia Society Policy Institute. “And this is not to mention the uncertainty that these increases contribute to the overall business environment.”