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Trump orders U.S. firms out of China after Beijing sets new tariffs

Kitco News

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he has ordered American companies to exit China after Beijing unveiled retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. goods, throwing a new twist into the bitter trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump said on Twitter he will issue a response to China’s latest tariff plan on Friday afternoon. The president was meeting with his trade team at midday, a senior White House official told Reuters.

“We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them. The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP,” Trump tweeted.

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”

It’s unclear what legal authority Trump would be able to use to compel U.S. companies to close operations in China or stop sourcing products from the country.

The U.S. president said he also was ordering shippers including FedEx (FDX.N). Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), UPS (UPS.N) and the U.S. Postal Services to search out and refuse all deliveries of the opioid fentanyl to the United States.

China on Friday said it would impose retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods, targeting crude oil for the first time and renewing punitive duties on American-made autos.

The latest salvo was in response to Trump’s plans to impose 10% tariffs on a final $300 billion list of Chinese-made consumer goods on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, including cell phones, toys, laptop computers and clothing.

China’s Commerce Ministry said that on those same dates it will impose additional tariffs of 5% or 10% on a total of 5,078 products originating from the United States including agricultural products such as soybeans, beef and pork, as well as small aircraft. Beijing is also reinstituting tariffs on cars and auto parts originating from the United States that it suspended last December as U.S.-China trade talks accelerated.

“China’s decision to implement additional tariffs was forced by the U.S.’s unilateralism and protectionism,” the ministry said in a statement.

U.S. stocks fell sharply on fears escalation of the trade war could tip the U.S. economy into recession. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 2.2%, the S&P 500 index .SPX fell 1.8% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI shed 1.7%. U.S. Treasury yields also fell as investors sought safe-haven assets.

U.S. crude futures were down more than 3%.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox Business Network that U.S.-China trade talks would nevertheless continue in September and dismissed the Chinese tariff threat as small in terms of the U.S. economy.

On Thursday, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there was progress in a deputy-level U.S.-China trade call this week. But neither side so far appears to be ready to make a significant compromise needed to end the nearly 14-month trade war.

The protracted dispute has stoked fears about a global recession, shaking investor confidence and prompting central banks around the world to ease policy in recent months.

In an interview on CNBC, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester said she viewed the Chinese retaliatory tariffs as “just a continuation” of the aggravated trade policy uncertainty that has begun weighing on U.S. business investment and sentiment.

AGRICULTURE, AUTO SECTORS HIT

The knock-on effects of the U.S.-China trade dispute was a key reason behind the Fed’s move to cut interest rates last month for the first time in more than a decade.

“It is unclear as things stand whether the U.S.-China trade negotiations will continue as planned in early September,” said Agathe Demarais, global forecasting director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, in an e-mail statement.

“All eyes will now turn to the U.S. Fed to see whether Jerome Powell, the Fed Chairman, will react to these developments by accelerating rate cuts.”

In a keynote speech at the Fed’s annual central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, Powell said the U.S. central bank would “act as appropriate” to keep the economy healthy but did not say how fast it might cut rates.

Among U.S. goods targeted by Beijing’s latest tariffs were soybeans, which will be hit with an extra 5% tariff starting Sept. 1. China will also tag beef and pork from the United States with an extra 10% tariff.

China is also reinstituting an additional 25% tariff on U.S.-made vehicles and a 5% tariff on auto parts that had been suspended at the beginning of the year. Carmakers such as Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and Tesla (TSLA.O) had adjusted their prices in China when the auto and auto parts tariffs had been suspended.

Ford (F.N), a net exporter to China, said in a statement it encouraged the United States and China to find a near-term solution.

“It is essential for these two important economies to work together to advance balanced and fair trade,” the company said.

Reporting by Judy Hua, Min Zhang, Se Young Lee, Stella Qiu, Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton in BEIJING, Yilei Sun in SHANGHAI and David Lawder, David Shepardson, Doina Chiacu and Steve Holland in WASHINGTON; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Humeyra Pamuk in WASHINGTON and Tom Polansek and Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Alison Williams and Paul Simao

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