China hints at retaliation against Trump after he announces tough tariffs on steel & aluminum

DCNFRyan Pickrell, DCNF

(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump warned Thursday that hard-hitting tariffs on steel and aluminum are coming down the pipe, and China is furiously signaling that it plans to retaliate to protect its national interests.

China, a country of particular concern when it comes to problematic steel and aluminum imports, has been extremely critical of the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs from the start, asserting that the Department of Commerce’s findings were “groundless.”

“If the United States’ final decision affects China’s interests, we will take necessary measures to defend our rights,” senior Ministry of Commerce official Wang Hejun said in response to the report two weeks ago. The foreign ministry followed suit Thursday.

The Department of Commerce, citing national security concerns, recommended February that Trump move to restrict foreign steel and aluminum imports. The president then announced Thursday that the U.S. will place tariffs of 25 percent on foreign-made steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The move follows a presidential tweet Thursday morning claiming that American steel and aluminum industries have been decimated by “decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries around the world.”

America’s “unreasonable and excessive use of trade remedy measures will not help revitalize relevant industries at home,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Thursday. “Rather, it will affect its employment and jeopardize the welfare of American consumers.”

“China will take necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” she added.

While the proposed tariffs are not country specific, the move is definitely a slap in the face for China, which the Department of Commerce reportedly encouraged the president to hit harder.

Liu He, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, is presently in the U.S. to discuss bilateral trade ties and Sino-American cooperation, including dumping concerns and proposed punitive measures.

The Trump administration has slapped tariffs on washing machines and solar panels, as well as aluminum foil imports, in recent weeks. “China will take necessary measures to defend its interests in response to the wrong practice of the United States,” Wang said Wednesday in response to these moves.

China’s repetition of the phrase “necessary measures” indicates that Beijing may take some sort of retaliatory action to counter Washington’s move to defend U.S. industries.

China is reportedly already investigating restricting American grain exports in retaliation for the earlier tariffs, a move that could potentially affect Trump supporters in the agricultural industry.

In addition to protecting American industries from the negative affects of dumping by foreign companies unfairly subsidized by their governments, Trump seems particularly concerned about the hollowing out of the defense industrial base.

“We need that for national defense,” the president said Thursday, adding, “If we ever have a conflict, we don’t want to be buying the steel from a country that we’re fighting, because somehow that doesn’t work very well.”

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