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Trump Stays Defiant Before Tariffs, Lashing ‘Weak’ Critics

Brendan Murray and Alyza Sebenius
Trump Stays Defiant Before Tariffs, Lashing ‘Weak’ Critics

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President Donald Trump showed no sign that he’s going to back down from new tariffs on more than $110 billion in Chinese imports -- set to take effect within hours -- even as talks are set to continue.

“They’re on,” Trump told reporters on Friday before heading to Camp David, the. U.S. presidential retreat in Maryland. Face-to-face talks between Chinese and American trade negotiators scheduled for Washington in September are still happening “as of now,” he said.

“We’re going to win the fight,” Trump said.

On Saturday Trump tweeted about Democrats -- he singled out Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan -- “wanting to give up on our very successful Trade battle with China.” The president also took credit for low gasoline prices, “just like a Tax Cut.”

U.S. stocks on Friday moved between gains and losses as investors weighed the effects of more import tariffs on American households. U.S. consumer sentiment slumped to the lowest level of Trump’s presidency. The University of Michigan’s final sentiment index fell to 89.8 in August from a previously reported 92.1 and 98.4 in July, data showed Friday.

The U.S. is starting a 15% tariff on about $110 billion in apparel, footwear and other Chinese imports Sunday, with same duty on the balance of almost $300 billion in toys, phones and laptops and other products delayed until Dec. 15. Trump is also increasing the levy already in effect on $250 billion in other Chinese goods to 30% from 25% starting Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

China has vowed additional tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods, including soybeans, automobiles and oil, with some taking effect Sunday and the rest Dec. 15 in retaliation.

Earlier Friday, Trump blamed American companies for their inability to deal with a trade policy he said is aimed at reining in “unfair players.”

“Badly run and weak companies are smartly blaming these small Tariffs instead of themselves for bad management,” Trump tweeted Friday. “And who can really blame them for doing that? Excuses!”

In a separate Twitter post on Friday, he took aim at the Federal Reserve again, writing that “we don’t have a Tariff problem (we are reigning in bad and/or unfair players), we have a Fed problem.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked the central bank, blaming policy makers for the dollar’s strength and harming the economy by raising interest rates and then moving to cut them too slowly.

Several prominent American companies in recent days have tied weaker performance to trade frictions.

Shares of American Outdoor Brands Corp. plunged 22% on Friday after the maker of Smith & Wesson handguns cut its forecast to include $5 million in costs for tariffs on Chinese imports.

Best Buy Co. fell 8% on Thursday after delivering sluggish sales and trimming its outlook for the year, citing consumer uncertainty in the second half of the year along with the complications that tariffs create. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. sank 15% on Thursday after trimming its sales outlook and flagging the impact of tariffs on its profit margin.

Business Blame

While it’s unclear who Trump is responding to in his criticism of businesses that blame their problems on tariffs, the largest U.S. business lobby this week urged him and Chinese President Xi Jinping to withdraw from the new tariffs and return to talks in good faith to end the escalating trade war.

“At this moment of uncertainty, it is critical that our leaders take decisive steps to bolster the economy and avoid actions that could turn talk of recession into reality,” Thomas Donohue, chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a Washington Post opinion piece Thursday.

Other American industry groups were also critical of the escalation.

A coalition of more than 150 trade associations made a last-ditch plea to postpone the duties, saying they “come at the worst possible time” and that holiday purchases will still be affected.

Despite the worsening trade tensions, a large majority of the American companies that are members of the U.S.-China Business Council said they’re committed to China over the long term and don’t plan to leave, according to a survey the group released Thursday.

(Updates with Trump tweets in fourth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brendan Murray in London at brmurray@bloomberg.net;Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at brmurray@bloomberg.net, Sarah McGregor, Ros Krasny

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