President Donald Trump on Wednesday sought to allay rising anxiety among farmers about the impact of his trade war with China, promising over Twitter to bolster sales of their products but acknowledging it could take a while.
"I will open things up, better than ever before, but it can't go too quickly," Trump said in a pair of tweets sent from Brussels, where he is attending a gathering of NATO leaders. "I am fighting for a level playing field for our farmers, and will win!"
His attempt at reassurance came a day after he escalated his trade war with China, identifying an added US$200 billion (NZ$295 billion) in Chinese products that he intends to hit with import tariffs. The move made good on the president's threat to respond to China's retaliation for the initial US tariffs on US$34 billion in Chinese goods, which went into effect on Friday.
The fallout has been acutely felt by soybean producers and other agricultural sectors in the Midwest - prompting even some members of Trump's own party to voice alarm.
"I'm very, very nervous about it, and my constituents are very, very nervous about it," Senator Charles Grassley said in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday morning shortly before Trump sent his tweets from overseas.
Grassley said the Trump administration tariff fight has "a very detrimental effect on current markets" and that the impact is rippling through other industries in his state beyond agriculture.
"I hope he knows what he's doing," Grassley said of Trump. "It's making people nervous."
Trump's comments on Twitter came on a day that Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to spend in three Midwestern states.
At an event in Kansas City, Pence read Trump's tweets and reiterated that the administration is fighting for farmers "in the heartland."
"Our president is going to keep fighting for trade deals that are free and fair and reciprocal," Pence said. "We will always fight for American farmers to export what we grow and raise around the planet."
Pence cited several exporting opportunities that he said have improved during the Trump administration, including beef to China and poultry to South Korea.
- Washington Post