WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has defended his controversial use of tariffs against China and other countries, saying the trade measures are "working far better than anyone ever anticipated".
In a series of Twitter posts over the weekend, he said he was using tariffs, and the threat of tariffs, to try to force other countries to renegotiate trade deals with the United States.
If they refused, as China has, then Mr Trump said he would use the tariffs to punish the countries.
"Tariffs have had a tremendous positive impact on our steel industry," he said in one tweet on Saturday. "Plants are opening all over the US, steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury."
In another tweet, he said: "Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today. Only fools would disagree."
He also accused China of financing advertisements to convince Americans to stop his trade agenda.
"China, which is for the first time doing poorly against us, is spending a fortune on ads and PR (public relations) trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on tariffs - because they are really hurting their economy," he wrote.
There is no evidence, however, that the Chinese government is financing such an advertising campaign in the US.
Mr Trump continued his focus on tariffs yesterday morning, tweeting that the duties are working "big time" and that imported goods should be taxed or made in the US.
He also suggested duties will allow paying down "large amounts of the US$21 trillion (S$28.7 trillion) in debt that has been accumulated" while reducing taxes for Americans.
His tweets came amid a new surge in trade tensions with China.
Last week, the US President told his top trade official to study whether to raise tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods from a planned 10 per cent to 25 per cent. Beijing then threatened to impose tariffs on an additional US$60 billion worth of American exports - which White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow dismissed as "a weak response".
On Saturday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi called his country's threat "fully justified and necessary".
Speaking on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore, he hit back at Mr Kudlow's remarks: "As to whether China's economy is doing well or not, I think it is all too clear to the whole international community," Mr Wang said, adding that China contributed a huge amount to global economic growth.
The growing friction with China has raised concerns in both countries - and reportedly even within the Trump administration - about collateral damage.
"We said before that this round of tariffs amounted to doubling down on the recklessness of imposing a trade policy that will hurt US families and workers more than they will hurt China," a major trade group, the National Retail Federation, said in a statement last week.
While Mr Trump has taken credit for new steel jobs created with the help of tariffs, retaliatory measures by Beijing and others have rattled US soya bean farmers and the many companies reliant on increasingly expensive steel as a raw material.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST, BLOOMBERG