Trump claims tariffs successful as China battle intensifies

Trump claims tariffs successful as China battle intensifies

US President Donald Trump on Monday hailed his aggressive use of tariffs as a success for American business, amid reports he plans to drastically ratchet up the battle with Beijing imminently.

China's foreign ministry vowed Monday to strike back if Trump presses ahead with plans to impose duties on another $200 billion in Chinese imports, which would leave about half of everything the United States buys from China subject to tariffs.

Last week, Beijing said it welcomed overtures from US officials offering to re-start trade talks, but press reports indicate China would call off any meetings if the new punitive duties take effect.

Word of Trump's latest tariff plans has weighed on Wall Street since last week, with markets in a wait-and-see mode.

But the news sent Chinese stocks tumbling more than one percent on Monday, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index falling to 2,651.79, the lowest level since 2014.

In a pair of early morning tweets, Trump hailed his combative trade policy as a boon to American economic health and said the US steel industry, which the White House has championed in new protectionist measures, was now "the talk of the world."

"Tariffs have put the US in a very strong bargaining position, with Billions of Dollars, and Jobs, flowing into our Country -- and yet cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable," Trump said.

- China to counter-attack -

He threatened punitive action against nations that won't deal fairly with Washington.

"If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be 'Tariffed!'"

While US inflation has continued to rise steadily albeit modestly, firms across the country report lost businesses, layoffs and possible bankruptcies as input costs rise and exports fall.

Multiple media reports in recent days cite officials saying Trump had decided to press ahead with tariffs on $200 billion in goods as soon as Monday. But he lowered the proposed duty rates back to 10 percent after announcing last month that they should be increased to 25 percent.

The lower tariff rate could soften the blow ahead of key US congressional elections in November.

"If the US launches any new tariff measures, China will have to take countermeasures to firmly ensure our legitimate rights and interests," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a regular press briefing on Monday.

Lobbying against the tariffs has risen sharply in Washington but Trump's policy has left candidates in competitive races for November's hard-fought mid-term congressional elections in awkward positions.

Some Republicans in export-dependent areas have fallen silent on trade or sought to push back. But some Democrats, who broadly oppose the president's agenda and are banking on his unpopularity, have adopted critical views of trade agreements and free trade.