WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has said he will likely push forward with plans to increase tariffs on US$200 billion (S$275 billion) worth of Chinese goods, and indicated that he would also impose duties on all remaining imports from the Asian giant if negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping fail to produce a trade deal.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published on Monday, Mr Trump said that he was prepared to impose tariffs on a final batch of US$267 billion worth of Chinese shipments if he cannot make a deal with Mr Xi when they meet at the Group of 20 meeting in Argentina, which starts on Friday. The rate could be either 10 per cent or 25 per cent.
Mr Trump said Apple's iPhones and laptops imported from China could be hit by new tariffs. Americans could "very easily" handle a 10 per cent duty, he said.
Mobile phones and computers, among China's biggest exports to the US, have been spared as the administration has sought to minimise the impact on US consumers. WSJ said the administration has been worried about a consumer reaction to such levies.
The Trump administration has complained that US firms are not getting a fair deal in China. "The only deal would be China has to open up their country to competition from the United States," the President said. "As far as other countries are concerned, that is up to them."
In September, the Trump administration plunged deeper into a trade war with China by imposing a 10 per cent tariff on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and said the rate will rise to 25 per cent on Jan 1.
The US is unlikely to accede to demands from Beijing to refrain from raising the tariff, Mr Trump said.
"This is largely a negotiation tactic," said Mr Dong Tao, vice-chairman for Greater China at Credit Suisse Private Banking in Hong Kong. "Putting high-stakes pressure onto the other side seems to be a consistent pattern from the Trump administration."
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang yesterday urged the US to work towards a positive outcome of a planned meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi at the G-20 meeting.
"Their meeting is just around the corner," Mr Geng said at a regular news briefing in Beijing. "We hope the US could work with us to implement and follow the spirit of the phone call of the state leaders and ensure positive outcomes of the meeting."
He added: "On the basis of equality, sincerity and good faith, we are engaging in consultations to resolve the relevant issues... Meanwhile, we will be resolute in ensuring our legal rights and interests."
A Chinese official told reporters last week that the two leaders would look to set guidelines for future talks. "The main issue is how to settle down the trade war," the official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of preparatory negotiations.
The US already imposed tariffs on US$50 billion worth of Chinese products earlier this year, which Beijing retaliated against on a dollar-for-dollar basis. China has since added retaliatory duties on an additional US$60 billion worth of American products.
Chinese officials have said that their key outcome from the Trump-Xi meeting would be to convince the US to hold off on the tariff increase, WSJ reported, without identifying the officials.
Mr Trump told WSJ his advice to American firms caught up in the trade conflict is to build factories in the US and make their products domestically.
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