President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on cars made in the European Union and on unspecified Chinese products unless the trading partners reduce their duties on U.S. lobster.
“If the European Union doesn’t drop that tariff immediately, we’re going to put a tariff on their cars, which would be equivalent,” Trump said in a roundtable event in Bangor, Maine, with commercial fishermen and the state’s former Republican governor, Paul LePage. “It’ll be the equivalent, plus,” he added.
Trump has frequently threatened to tariff EU-made cars in disputes with the region’s governments. The threat over lobster comes as Trump has sought to change the subject from his widely criticized response to the coronavirus and nationwide protests over police brutality.
“Peter Navarro’s going to be the Lobster King now, OK?” Trump said, referring to the White House trade adviser and China hawk.
Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products got caught in the tariff war between the two nations in the past couple of years. For its part, Beijing began imposing a levy on a long list of imports from the U.S., including live lobsters, in 2018.
The president said Friday of the Chinese that he would tariff “something they sell that’s very precious to them.”
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow separately said Friday the two sides are still in touch on the initial trade deal reached between the world’s two biggest economies earlier this year but that more action against China is possible as the president weighs a response the country’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Thursday he was “very happy” with the first phase of pact. The agreement has come under scrutiny as Beijing lags behind its promised purchase commitments and as Trump has blamed China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump administration for months has been in talks with the EU over a limited trade deal but the two sides have made little progress.
The president has frequently threatened tariffs on autos imported from the EU, mainly to get the trading bloc to agree to negotiations and force German automakers to commit to new investments in the U.S.
But both EU officials and lawmakers stopped taking the threat seriously months ago. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley led talks in Congress to overhaul the tariff law under which Trump is seeking to impose duties on the EU but those negotiations stalled last year.
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