Political News

Trump trade adviser says tariffs are 'necessary to defend this country'

Posted June 19, 2018 12:03 p.m. EDT

— The White House is defending President Donald Trump's threat to impose tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, arguing the trade penalties are "necessary to defend this country."

"No one should be surprised," Peter Navarro, Trump's trade adviser, told reporters Tuesday on a White House conference call. "President Trump has given China every chance to change its aggressive behavior."

The United States has already announced a 25% tariff on $50 billion of Chinese goods, most of which will take effect as early as July 6, to punish China for stealing American trade secrets. China immediately promised to retaliate.

On Monday, Trump directed trade officials to identify an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that will be subject to a 10% tariff if China doesn't back down. The President threatened to impose even more tariffs if China retaliates further.

On a day when the Dow dropped as much as 400 points because of fears of a US-China trade war, Navarro played down fears that escalating tariffs would harm the US economy. Instead, he insisted the dispute will have "relatively small effects."

"Our view is that these actions are necessary to defend this country, and that they are ultimately bullish for Corporate America, for the working men and women of America, and for the global trading system," he said.

Navarro said China's behavior has led to unfair imbalances in the world economy. The White House plans to release a report later Tuesday detailing efforts by China to acquire what Navarro called the "crown jewels" of American technology and intellectual property.

The Trump administration says it has been working to address trade issues with China, but Navarro said those efforts have yielded no progress.

The administration plans to move forward in a "measured and fair way" to identify goods that would be a target for the additional penalties, Navarro said.

Navarro was asked by CNN's Jeff Zeleny about fears among American soybean farmers that Chinese retaliation will hammer their business.

"President Trump will have the backs of all Americans who may be targeted by Chinese actions," Navarro said.

"I can assure you that we are not unprepared," he said, but he declined to reveal details.