Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump threatened retaliatory measures against US trade partners Monday, accusing them of “getting away with murder.”
“We cannot continue to be taken advantage of by other countries,” Trump told cabinet, state and local officials gathered at the White House for a meeting on infrastructure.
“We lose vast amounts of money with China and Japan and South Korea,” he added. “They are getting away with murder.”
“We are going to charge countries outside of our country –- countries that take advantage of the United States. Some of them are so-called allies but they are not allies on trade.”
“So we’re going to be doing very much a reciprocal tax and you’ll be hearing about that during the week and the coming months.”
It was not clear what Trump was referring to. White House officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.
After initial remarks, Trump turned to his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for endorsement of the idea, which appears to be a work in progress.
“Do you agree with what I said about the tax?” he asked “If you don’t, ooh, would you be in trouble.”
Amid laughter, Ross, aged 80, responded in the affirmative. “We gave away so much unilaterally that a lot of these trade things are self-inflicted wounds.”
Trump has long painted himself as tough on trade and described previous policy as a “disaster.”
He pulled the United States out of a vast trans-Pacific trade deal and is renegotiating NAFTA — a free trade accord between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Trump said his presidential predecessors had been “too lazy” to fix the problem.
“The truth is it was laziness. After World War II we helped Germany and helped all countries and we helped Korea after the Korean War.”
“And the agreements basically stayed the way they were and they became very wealthy and they could pay a tremendous amount and they could pay us back, but nothing happened.”