Trump suggests a trade war with China could still happen

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping

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President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping
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Carlos Barria/Reuters

  • President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview Wednesday that recent trade actions by the US against China hopefully do not start a trade war but “if there is, there is.”
  • Trump also said that the US is planning a large fine against China for recent changes in their intellectual property rules.
  • Economists have long been fearful of Trump triggering a trade war, and warn it could be terrible for the US economy.

President Donald Trump doesn’t want to trigger a trade war with China, but isn’t afraid if one happens.

During an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Trump was asked if the moves by the US including actions against Chinese trade of steel, aluminum, and solar panels could lead to a trade war. Trump said he wants to avoid it but could not guarantee none would occur.

“I don’t think so, I hope not,” Trump said. “But if there is, there is.”

Trump, along with his top economic advisor Gary Cohn who was present for the interview, said the administration is planning retaliatory action against China for a change in their policies that forced companies to transfer IP to the country.

According to Trump, the US will soon impose “a very big intellectual property potential fine” against the Chinese.

“We’re talking about big damages,” the president told Reuters. “We’re talking about numbers that you haven’t even thought about.”

Since the start of his campaign, Trump targeted China in particular when discussing his more protectionist trade views. Despite a softening of tone toward China during Trump’s first year, economists are still concerned about possible trade inhibiting policies.

Triggering a trade war has long been the top concern among economists regarding Trump’s economic agenda. Most experts believe sharply instead trade protections or tariffs as the result of a trade war would cause serious economic damage to the US and possibly push the country into a recession.

In the first 11 months of 2017, which represents the most recent data available, China was the top trade partner with the US. The country accounted for 16.3% of all US trade in that timeframe according to the Census Bureau.