Trump threatens to hike China tariffs in escalation of trade war tensions

President says deal remains ‘close’ but ‘cheated’ US prepared to raise tariffs

President Trump has used a speech in New York to threaten an escalation in the 16-month US-China trade war, dampening hopes that a deal is imminent.

Trump told the Economic Club of New York that if a deal wasn’t made, he would “substantially raise those tariffs.” Businesses and markets had been hoping he would use the speech to signal an intention to freeze the next raft of tariffs on Chinese goods, due to come into force in December.

While Trump also said that a deal remained “close” and that Beijing was “dying to make a deal” his threat to escalate the trade war has been interpreted as a sign that the two sides are still at odds over the details of any “phase one” agreement.

Since Washington announced that a tentative deal had been agreed in October, the world’s two largest economies have failed to hammer out details on issues like intellectual property theft and an easing of existing tariffs.

These disagreements have resulted in Trump returning to a familiar combative style after a period of relative peace.

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“Since China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization in 2001, no one has manipulated better or taken advantage of the United States more,” Trump said. “I will not say the word ‘cheated,’ but nobody’s cheated better than China, I will say that.”

Trump also used his speech to take swipes at popular targets like the European Union and the Federal Reserve, while predictably talking up his own economic record.

“We have ended the war on American workers, we have stopped the assault on American industry, and we have launched an economic boom the likes of which we have never seen before,” Trump said.

FURTHER READING: US hints tariffs on Chinese imports could be relaxed

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