Navarro fuels tariff speculation: ‘Bill has come due’ for China

Top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro fueled speculation Monday that the Trump administration might retaliate against China with more tariffs.

“A bill has to come due for China,” he said in a CNBC interview. “It’s not a question of punishing them, it’s a question of holding China accountable, the Chinese Communist Party accountable.”

The administration has stepped up its anti-China rhetoric recently, prompting concerns that new tariffs may be in the works or that the initial phase of a broader trade deal signed in January could fall apart.

President Trump said last week he was “very torn” about whether to pull back from the deal and reimpose additional tariffs on Chinese imports.

China committed to buying billions of dollars worth of U.S. agriculture in the deal, but it’s increasingly unlikely that Beijing will be able to do so given the global economic downturn spurred by the pandemic.

In Monday’s interview, Navarro squarely put the blame for the pandemic on China, accusing its government of covering up the outbreak for months and allowing it to spread worldwide, even as it started buying up protective medical equipment.

“They inflicted tremendous damage on the world which is still ongoing,” said Navarro, a hardline critic of China and its trade policies.

“We’re up to close to $10 trillion we’ve had to appropriate to fight this battle,” he added.

Congress has approved roughly $3.6 trillion in combined spending and tax cuts to battle the coronavirus, but the Federal Reserve has also opened up several trillion in borrowing to ease jittery financial markets.

The Associated Press recently published an article citing documents showing Chinese President Xi Jinping waited six crucial days to raise public warnings about the virus after learning that it was likely to become a pandemic.

The Trump administration has faced scrutiny as well.

“It appears President Trump and his administration have learned nothing from the Chinese government’s failure to quickly and transparently combat the coronavirus,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in late February, when then-acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that the media was overplaying concern for the virus in an effort to weaken Trump.

“Hiding the truth about the coronavirus and the government’s response only increases the likelihood of the virus spreading,” Schumer added.

Updated at 12:14 p.m.

Tags China Chuck Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mick Mulvaney Pandemic Tariffs Trade Trade deal trade war

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