WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump acknowledged this week that farmers could be adversely affected by the escalating tariff dispute with China, but promised to make it up to them, saying they "will be better off than they ever were."
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, Trump addressed the Chinese threat to slap tariffs on soybeans and other agriculture staples grown in rural America, a move that could hit Midwestern farmers.
"If during the course of the negotiation they want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me. I wouldn't say that's nice, but I tell you our farmers are great patriots," Trump said. "They understand that they're doing this for the country. We'll make it up to them. In the end they're going to be much stronger than they are right now."
The President reiterated his commitment to farmers Thursday when he met with a group of farm-state governors and lawmakers at the White House. Trump told the Midwest contingency that he was pressing China to treat the American agriculture industry fairly. Midwest farmers fear becoming caught up in a trade war as Beijing threatens to impose tariffs on soybeans and other U.S. crops, a big blow to Midwestern farmers, many of whom are strong Trump supporters.
"There are no winners in a trade war, particularly farmers and ranchers. I remain hopeful that the president and his administration will take this into consideration as they craft future trade policy."
Sen. John Thune (R) South Dakota attended the trade meeting with President Trump
China is threatening the tariffs in response to Trump moving to enact protectionist measures as punishment for Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property. The U.S. bought more than $500 billion in goods from China last year and now is planning or considering penalties on some $150 billion of those imports. The U.S. sold about $130 billion in goods to China in 2017 and faces a potentially devastating hit if China responds in kind.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was working with his team "to determine how best to respond to China's attack on American farmers" and had asked the Agriculture Department to provide him with a plan to protect U.S. farmers.
As the economic saber-rattling shakes global markets, Trump said he had a good relationship with China and with President Xi Jinping, but repeated his claim that China has been "taking advantage of the United States for many years." He added that he doesn't blame China, but American leaders for creating a "lopsided" set of trade rules.
Copyright 2018, Associated Press
Editor's note: Additional comment from Sen. Thune added by editor.