Trump: On second thought, China lies, so let’s slap on all the tariffs


It seems as though it was just yesterday when the White House was bragging about the progress being made in their trade talks with China. Oh, wait — it actually was yesterday. Their readout bragged about new commitments for increased agricultural purchases and greater cooperation on achieving an “enforceable” trade agreement.

Today? Er … not so much:

The U.S. will impose an additional 10 percent tariff on $300 billion in Chinese imports starting next month, President Donald Trump announced Thursday via tweet. …

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just returned from trade talks in Shanghai, where little progress appeared to have been made. The negotiations reportedly ended early. A new meeting had been set up for September, the White House said earlier this week.

Trump’s tweet comes in the wake of an 11:30 a.m. ET meeting at the White House, when Trump’s trade team briefed the president on how the negotiations went, CNBC reported. The ensuing tweets suggest that Trump is frustrated with China’s lack of follow-through.

Yes, yes, thank you Captain Obvious, that’s certainly the “suggestion”:

What happened between yesterday and today? Perhaps someone at the White House got their wires crossed about what actually took place in Shanghai. China’s readout seemed more cool and ambiguous, plus it included a shot at Trump himself over the tariff threats. Or, possibly, Trump might see the Fed’s first interest cut in a decade as more maneuvering room for trade sanctions, hoping that cheaper money will balance out any damage an expansion of the trade war might bring.

Whatever the reason, investors didn’t like the uncertainty, nor are they encouraged by any manufacturing gains in the US resulting from tariffs:

Stocks slashed gains Thursday after President Donald Trump said the U.S. will impose an additional 10% tariff on Chinese imports to the U.S.

The Dow fell 200 points after rising more than 300 points earlier. The S&P 500 was down 0.7%, while the Nasdaq fell 0.6% after jumping more than 1.6%. …

Hopes for another rate cut increased after IHS Markit’s U.S. manufacturing PMI dropped in July to its lowest level since September 2009. IHS said employment in the sector fell to its lowest level since 2013. Muted client demand and a slower increase in production weighed down the manufacturing space.

The Institute for Supply Management’s reading on the manufacturing sector fell to 51.2 in July, its lowest level since August 2016. Economists polled by Reuters expected a print of 52.

Another round of talks with China will begin next month, shortly after the tariffs go into effect. If China can be pushed into an enforceable trade agreement, that should set up the incentives for some concessions. If it doesn’t work, though, this will likely be the new normal, and Trump will have to work overtime to keep it from damaging the consistent economic growth he needs to win re-election.

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