Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley on Tuesday expressed cautious support for President Donald Trump’s plan to raise tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese goods.
“I have some sympathy for Trump’s lack of patience with the Chinese,” the Iowa Republican said in his regular weekly phone call with reporters. “Enough is enough. It’s time to strike a strong, enforceable deal so that whether you’re farmers or businesses or consumers, you can get some certainty.”
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Grassley was reacting to Trump’s decision to raise a 10 percent percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning. That move came in response to what U.S. officials have described as “backsliding” by Beijing in ongoing trade talks.
Trump also intends to begin steps to impose a 25 percent duty on another $325 billion worth of Chinese goods. If those duties are eventually imposed, that would essentially cover all U.S. imports from the world’s second largest economy, given that a 25 percent duty on another $50 billion worth of Chinese goods is already in place.
Grassley said Trump deserved to be “applauded” for being the first president to make tough demands on Beijing to curb trade practices that the U.S. side says disadvantage American companies. He also encouraged Chinese officials to be prepared to make major concessions at the next round of negotiations, expected to begin on Thursday in Washington.
“I urge the Chinese negotiators to bring these talks to a halt, with a successful close, so we can avoid prolonged tariffs, which we know have an impact on the U.S. economy,” Grassley said.
If the talks fail, some of Grassley’s farm state constituents could be among those who suffer the most economic hardship. China has retaliated against Trump’s existing tariffs by imposing duties on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including many farm exports.
Beijing has resumed limited purchases of U.S. soybeans and corn in recent months as the two sides have worked to reach a deal, but it could just as easily stop buying from the U.S. if negotiations break down.
Trump’s expanded tariff action could boost prices of many everyday consumer items that retailers heavily source from China, such as clothing and consumer electronics. Manufacturers will also pay more for many intermediate goods, like chemicals and parts, which are used to make final goods in the U.S.
Because of the high stakes, Grassley said it was important the administration conclude a strong, enforceable agreement that addresses the concerns about China’s trade practices that prompted Trump to launch his trade war, including Beijing’s subsidies for state-controlled industries and protection of U.S. intellectual property.
“When all the dust settles over these negotiations or these tariffs, we have to show that this was a worthwhile negotiation,” Grassley said.