Trump de­fends China tar­iffs and claims 'great pa­triot farm­ers' will reap ben­e­fits

The Guardian (USA) - - Front Page - Amanda Holpuch and Do­minic Rushe

Don­ald Trump con­tin­ued to de­fend his trade war with China on Tues­day, claim­ing “great pa­triot farm­ers” in the US would ben­e­fit from tar­iff in­creases that trig­gered sell-offs in stock mar­kets across the world.

In a se­ries of tweets, Trump promised a new deal with China would be reached soon and made a case for how farm­ers would ben­e­fit from a tar­iff in­crease that many of them op­pose.

If China stops buy­ing Amer­i­can farm prod­ucts be­cause of tar­iffs, Trump said, farm­ers will be com­pen­sated. “This money will come from the mas­sive tar­iffs be­ing paid to the United States for al­low­ing China, and oth­ers, to do busi­ness with us. The farm­ers have been ‘for­got­ten’ for many years. Their time is now!”

The long-run­ning trade dis­pute be­tween the US and China es­ca­lated on Fri­day af­ter Trump raised tar­iffs on $200m of Chi­nese goods from 10% to 25%. China re­tal­i­ated on Mon­day with tar­iffs on $60bn of US im­ports, pre­cip­i­tat­ing a dive on the US stock mar­kets.

Amer­i­can farm­ers are likely to feel the pain first. Soy­bean ex­ports to China col­lapsed last year when the trade war be­gan, and agri­cul­tural ex­ports will be hit harder when, or if, the new tar­iffs are im­posed. Farm­ers are also suf­fer­ing from ex­ten­sive flood­ing that has de­layed plant­ing.

“The sen­ti­ment out in farm coun­try is get­ting grim­mer by the day,” said John Heis­dorf­fer, the chair­man of the Amer­i­can Soy­bean As­so­ci­a­tion. “Our pa­tience is wan­ing, our fi­nances are suf­fer­ing and the stress from months of liv­ing with the con­se­quences of these tar­iffs is mount­ing.”

The new round of tar­iffs will hit other parts of the US food in­dus­try, with beans, lentils, honey, flour, corn and oats all on the list of goods that will be taxed.

De­spite the mount­ing eco­nomic threat and es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions, Trump was op­ti­mistic about reach­ing a deal with China.

“When the time is right we will make a deal with China,” Trump tweeted. “It will all hap­pen, and much faster than peo­ple think!”

Trump’s po­si­tion has di­vided Repub­li­cans, es­pe­cially those in agri­cul­tural districts who fear the re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs will bur­den farm­ers, agri­cul­tural busi­nesses and con­sumers.

The pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers claim short-term eco­nomic pain will have pos­i­tive long-term con­se­quences.

The Repub­li­can se­na­tor Chuck Grass­ley, who rep­re­sents Iowa, a state heav­ily re­liant on agri­cul­ture, has called for a quick res­o­lu­tion to the dis­pute. “Amer­i­cans un­der­stand the need to hold China ac­count­able, but they also need to know that the ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­stands the eco­nomic pain they would feel in a pro­longed trade war,” Grass­ley said in a state­ment.

Pho­to­graph: Kevin La­mar­que/Reuters

Don­ald Trump with a pair of ‘Make Amer­ica Great Again’ hats at a rally in In­di­ana in Au­gust last year. Trump tweeted: ‘The Farm­ers have been for­got­ten for many years. Their time is now!’

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