Steve Scott, Sen. Richard Blumenthal

WCBS 880

Blumenthal Warns U.S. Is On Path To A Trade War With China

April 06, 2018 - 3:20 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- The White House says we are not in a trade war, but China is promising to retaliate if President Donald Trump follows through with another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.

This all comes a day after Beijing announced plans to tax $50 billion in U.S. products, including soybeans and small aircraft, in response to a U.S. move earlier this week to slap tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports.

When asked if the president is willing to fight a trade war, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Friday, "We don't want it to come to that. The president wants us to move to a process of fairness to free and fair and open trade."

But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, said if this continues, the situation will escalate to a trade war.

"I support strong efforts to crack down on intellectual property theft and unfair trade practices by China or any other nation, but what we have right now from President Trump is trade policy by tweet, reaction based on impulse and rash rhetoric that can only escalate tensions with all economic powers and lead to a trade war," Blumenthal told WCBS anchor Steve Scott. "Action by the United States to protect our interests abroad whether it's tariffs or other trade policies is absolutely right, but to do it rashly and impusively without a strategy or an endgame seems highly dangerous to our economy."

Listen to the full interview with Sen. Blumenthal:

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, called the escalation "the dumbest possible way" to punish China, and Blumental said there are better ways to compete with China.

"There is a way to compete with China by encouraging our industrial and manufacturing strength, punishing China for its theft of intellectual property, taking other action in consultation and coordination with our allies, such as South Korea or Japan that create even more than we do with China," Blumenthal said. "But right now we're embarked on a course of action that seems motivated more by rhetoric than reality, it's bound simply to escalate the friction and possibly lead to a trade war that could doom the all too fragile economic recovery that is benefiting our nation, as well as the world."

The escalating trade dispute had stocks already sharply lower Friday afternoon, and Blumenthal warns there's very little Congress can do to intervene.

"There's bipartisan criticism of the president but Congress has very, very limited authority in the area of tariffs and trade policy," Blumenthal said. "Even if Congress acted, the president could veto whatever Congress does."

(Copyright 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)