Trump turns up the heat on trade: 'Tariffs are the greatest!'

  • President Donald Trump turned up the rhetoric on trade, insisting in a Tuesday morning tweet that “Tariffs are the greatest!”
  • The statement comes amid an accelerating trade war between the U.S. and China.

President Donald Trump has accelerated the rhetoric on tariffs, saying they are a good bargaining tool in his quest to get better trade agreements.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, the president appeared to dig in on his position in the global trade war.

The statements comes as Trump has levied $34 billion in targets against Chinese imports and has targeted an additional $16 billion more than will come on line soon. Also, the administration is looking into another $200 billion in targeted duties on a number of Chinese goods.

China has retaliated with tariffs of its own, though the administration is banking on the idea that the U.S. ultimately will prevail in a tit-for-tat battle. The U.S. ran a $376 billion trade deficit with China in calendar year 2017 and that number was $152 billion for the first five months of 2018, according to Census Bureau data.

Trump’s chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, said at the Delivering Alpha conference last week that he does not like tariffs but also believes they can be effective in trying to level the playing field in trade.

Earlier in the morning Tuesday, Trump insisted in a separate tweet that the tariffs his administration has imposed are working to bring other countries to the bargaining table.

The remarks are similar to tweets back in March when Trump said “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

Voters generally disagree with the president’s positions.

In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 49 percent of respondents said the tariffs would raise the cost of goods and hurt the economy, while just 25 percent said they would preserve American jobs and help the economy.

Investors, though, have largely shrugged off the controversy.

The S&P 500 is up 5 percent for the year about 1.9 percent over the last month, despite the Trump saber-rattling on trade and other issues.

In an interview Thursday with CNBC, the president even threatened to impose tariffs on all $505 billion of goods the U.S. imports from China. Stocks mostly unchanged since the remarks.

Ed Mills, the Washington policy analyst at Raymond James, said the rest of the year has much in store that investors will need to watch closely.

“In recent months we have seen Trump increasingly operate on a go it alone strategy, relying more in his personal instincts and less on input from advisors. We expect these tendencies to continue and shape the direction of policy decisions in the near-term, leading to potentially binary outcomes,” Mills said in a note.

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