By Roberta Rampton and Lisa Lambert
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeated his threat to slap tariffs on an additional $267 billion (203 billion pounds) of Chinese imports if Beijing retaliates for the recent levies and other measures the United States has imposed in an escalating trade war between the economic giants.
Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, also said China is not ready to reach a deal on trade.
“China wants to make a deal, and I say they’re not ready yet,” Trump said. “I just say they’re not ready yet. And we’ve cancelled a couple of meetings because I say they’re not ready to make a deal.”
When asked whether he was ready to levy new taxes in case of retaliation from China, Trump said, “sure, absolutely.”
He added that the current U.S. trade imbalance with China means “they’ve already retaliated.”
Last month Trump imposed tariffs on nearly $200 billion of Chinese imports and then threatened more levies if China retaliated. China then hit back with tariffs on about $60 billion of U.S. imports.
Citing the growing trade war, the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its global economic growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019.
Asked about Trump’s remarks at a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said a trade war was bad for the global economy and not in the interests of either country.
“But China’s resolution to protect its own legitimate interests is unwavering. No one should have any illusions about this,” Lu said.
The United States wants to pressure China to make sweeping changes to its trade, technology transfer and high-tech industrial subsidy practices.
Trump’s latest comments underline a threat by Washington that it may ultimately impose tariffs on more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods – nearly the total amount of U.S. imports from China last year.
(Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Bill Berkrot & Shri Navaratnam)