As President Donald Trump reignites a trade war with China, he has found an ally in at least one key Democrat – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer, who has largely cheered the president’s efforts to crack down on what officials from both major parties call Chinese trade abuses, backed Trump again on Sunday. In a tweet, he urged the president to “hang tough on China.”
“Strength is the only way to win with China,” said Schumer, who is otherwise at odds with Trump on a wide variety of policy issues.
The president plans to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on Friday, he tweeted on Sunday. He also threatened to “shortly” put tariffs on the remaining $325 billion in Chinese products on which the U.S. has not put duties.
Trump’s tariff threat upended trade talks with Beijing just as the White House touted progress toward a final agreement to resolve U.S. grievances such as intellectual property theft and trade deficits. U.S. and Asian stock markets plunged on Monday ahead of planned trade talks this week between Washington and Beijing.
While Schumer backed Trump’s move, other top Democrats stayed quiet about Trump’s trade war escalation as of Monday morning. Spokespeople for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and head of the House Ways and Means Committee’s trade subcommittee, did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
No major 2020 Democratic presidential candidates immediately reacted to Trump’s tariff threat, either. But China has played a role in the race to take on Trump: former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comments downplaying the threat posed by Beijing sparked criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent whose trade views overlap with the president’s.
Democrats who, like Trump, have criticized free trade’s effect on American workers have to tread carefully during the early days of the primary. In Iowa, which will hold the first presidential nominating contest in February, farmers have taken a beating from the trade conflict with China and have urged Trump to strike an agreement. But protectionist rhetoric plays well in key general election states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, which have lost manufacturing jobs.
Trump has used tariffs as a negotiating tactic to force China to strike a deal. The U.S. wants to leave duties in place as an enforcement tool as part of any agreement. Beijing has pushed the Trump administration to remove tariffs.
In making his tariff threat Sunday, Trump wrote that the “Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!”
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