Trump increases tariffs on Chinese goods hours after slamming Fed chief

Trump announced in a statement Friday that he would be raising tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese products from 25 percent to 30 percent, effective October 1.

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By Adam Edelman

President Donald Trump on Friday announced a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods in retaliation for new Chinese tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. goods.

Trump said in a statement Friday that the White House would be raising tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese products to 30 percent from 25 percent, effective Oct. 1. In addition, the 10 percent tax on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports will be raised to 15 percent on Sept. 1.

"China should not have put new Tariffs on 75 BILLION DOLLARS of United States product (politically motivated!)," Trump tweeted.

David French, a senior vice president with the National Retail Federation, criticized the new tariffs.

"It's impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment," he said in a statement. "The administration's approach clearly isn't working, and the answer isn't more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?"

Joe Biden, the leading Democratic contender for president in 2020, said on the campaign trail Friday that the president is "now feeling the pressure of an economy teetering on a recession and he's not handling it very well."

"His trade war with China is blowing up in his face," he said. "I think it's only going to make him more erratic."

The tariff expansion announcement followed Trump's Twitter tirade against his hand-picked Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, calling him an “enemy” who could pose a bigger risk to the United States than Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can ‘speak’ without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly,” Trump tweeted. “We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work ‘brilliantly’ with both, and the U.S. will do great.”

Trump added: “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” referring to the Chinese leader. Trump misspelled Powell's name in an initial tweet, which he then deleted.

The tweets came after Powell, whom Trump picked for the role of Federal Reserve chairman, spoke at a highly anticipated conference in Wyoming, at which he pledged to help maintain a growing economy while also saying that U.S. trade policies and tariffs could be causing the economy to slow.

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The president, speaking to reporters before leaving on a trip to Biarritz, France, for the Group of Seven Summit, said late Friday, "If Powell resigned I wouldn’t stop him."

In his afternoon statement Trump said Chinese policy has caused billions of dollars of lost revenue to U.S. companies. The country, he said, "has been taking advantage of the United States on Trade, Intellectual Property Theft, and much more."

Trump also blasted Beijing earlier in the day, escalating a war of words and tariffs that has contributed to a descending stock market.

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"Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them," Trump said in a series of tweets.

"Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start look for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA," Trump added. "I will be responding to China's Tariffs this afternoon."

Late Friday, Trump tweeted that he has broad powers to regulate U.S. economic interests abroad, urging journalists to "try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. Case closed!"

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act allows a president to prohibit most trade with a perceived foe "to deal with an unusual and extraordinary threat with respect to which a national emergency has been declared."

The law requires a president to explain his action to Congress, and it allows Congress to shut down the action. It was enacted to limit presidential power by further defining it and encoding congressional oversight.

Responding to concerns that the escalating trade war could be affecting the economy, Trump told reporters late Friday, "The [U.S.] tariffs are working out great for us."

Ultimately, he said, he doesn't blame China for the current trade war. Rather, Trump said, "I blame past presidents" who weren't as tough on trade.

Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro, two members of the president's trade team, were seen outside the West Wing moments before Trump's tweets. It was not immediately clear under what authority the president could order U.S. businesses to comply with his directive on China. The White House did not immediately respond to questions from NBC News about Trump's plans.

Powell, meanwhile, said Friday that monetary policy "cannot provide a settled rulebook for international trade" — a subtle response to Trump's repeated demands that the Federal Reserve continue cutting interest rates.

“We can, however, try to look through what may be passing events, focus on how trade developments are affecting the outlook, and adjust policy to promote our objectives," Powell said.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Powell in recent months for not lowering rates more readily. That criticism has come as fears of a recession have grown amid an uptick in data that indicates economic growth has slowed.

The U.S. stock market fell sharply after China announced it would slap retaliatory tariffs on American soybeans, crude oil and cars. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day down 623 points, or 2.4 percent.

The ongoing trade war between China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, has rocked markets across the world for the last year and a half and contributed to a global economic slowdown that some economists believe could trigger a recession.

The president in recent days has sought to calm fears about the economy, brushing off talk of a recession and defending his actions on China.

But despite his public reassurances, inside the White House there was growing acknowledgment that the U.S. needs to settle the standoff with China before it takes a bigger toll on the economy.

Dennis Romero and Mike Memoli contributed.