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Trump blames tariff critics for weakening US bargaining power

President Donald Trump lit into critics of his tariffs Wednesday saying discord -- some from Republicans in Congress -- undercuts his ability to narrow the U.S. trade gap with other countries.

"When you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation, it will only take longer to make a deal, and the deal will never be as good as it could have been with unity," Trump said on Twitter. "Negotiations are going really well, be cool. The end result will be worth it!"

Trump’s latest shot comes as some fellow Republicans slammed his plan to offer as much as $12 billion in aid to US farmers hit by a burgeoning trade war. Extra farm aid would benefit producers seeing prices drop and inventories rise because of disputes with China, Canada and other trade partners who are significant purchasers of US pork, soybeans and other crops.

But that failed to sway skeptics on Capitol Hill, including Republicans from politically important agricultural states.


"My thoughts are the thoughts of farmers. They want trade, not aid. It’s really just that simple," said Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin.

Trump lashed out at those he termed weak politicians asking to end tariffs that the president has sought to use to reduce a trade deficit he said was $817 billion last year. It was unclear where Trump got that figure. Data from the Commerce Department put the 2017 U.S. trade deficit at $552.3 billion.

Trump is scheduled to meet later in the day with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after saying the U.S. and European Union should eliminate all tariffs, barriers and subsidies. While talks with European leaders likely will focus on averting car levies, China has responded to Trump’s tariffs by targeting US agricultural exports.

"China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the US,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “They are being vicious in what will be their failed attempt. We were being nice - until now!”

While Trump said “China made $517 Billion on us last year,” the U.S. trade gap with China was $376 billion in 2017, according to Census Bureau data. That was up almost $30 billion from the previous year.

Earlier this month, Trump imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods, with similar penalties on an additional $16 billion worth of products expected to go into effect shortly. The administration has also identified an additional $200 billion of Chinese products that it is considering imposing a 10 percent tariff on, with the additional levy coming live as early as next month. Beijing has threatened to retaliate against any further U.S. tariffs, and responded to Trump’s first wave by matching duties on a similar amount of US imports.

The administration has also looked to protect specific industries with new tariffs, including a round of levies on imported metals. The 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum impact not only China, but traditional US allies like the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. (Bloomberg)