Donald Trump on Friday evening said trade talks with China are still on for next month, but the next round of tariffs will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday.
Trade groups pleaded with the administration this week to cancel the planned duties, but to no avail, apparently. Although Trump did delay tariffs on some goods until December 15, 15% levies on more than $100 billion in products are set to take effect over the weekend.
China has pledged to hit back with taxes on around $75 billion in US goods, although Beijing this week indicated they will not escalate things further ahead of face-to-face discussions which, at least according to what Trump told reporters before departing for Camp David, are still scheduled to happen next month in Washington.
Earlier Friday, Trump suggested US companies that publicly complain about the tariffs hurting their businesses are “weak” and are using the trade war as an “excuse” for poor management.
“We don’t have a tariff problem, we have a Fed problem”, the president insisted.
The tariffs scheduled for Sunday will affect apparel and footwear, among other things.
Goldman this week raised their estimates for the impact of the trade war on both US growth and inflation, while other desks struck a generally cautious tone as the Sino-US dispute drags into its second year.
The president also appeared to tie the trade talks to the situation in Hong Kong, which is poised to escalate over the weekend after the arrest of prominent protest leaders and activists. “I hope Hong Kong is handled in a humane way”, he said on Friday evening, repeating a familiar talking point from the last several weeks. Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington not to conflate the two issues.
Asked about the fate of the “Winter White House” in the face of the hurricane, Trump conceded that “Mar-a-Lago is dead center” – he used his hands to illustrate what “center” looks like. “But look, Mar-a-Lago can handle itself”, he added.
And so, just like Michael Cohen and Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn and countless others, Mar-a-Lago is left to fend for itself when the chips are down, despite having been through so much with Trump.