Trade war explodes as Trump clashes with US firms over ‘order’ to abandon China, block Fentanyl shipments

President Trump’s trade war with China boiled over Friday as Beijing slapped retaliatory tariffs on America and the president clashed with U.S. businesses over his abrupt demand for firms to bolt China and bring business back home.

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing … your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” he tweeted.

The president went on to call on companies to “search for and refuse” shipments of the opioid painkiller fentanyl from China.

The Chamber of Commerce responded that they want to see continued “constructive engagement” in trade talks.

“While we share the president’s frustration, we believe that continued, constructive engagement is the right way forward,” said Myron Brilliant of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Time is of the essence. We do not want to see a further deterioration of US-China relations.”

The president’s comments on Twitter followed China’s new round of retaliatory tariffs Friday on about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. Trump tweeted that he would respond to the tariffs Friday afternoon.

“I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office, to SEARCH FOR & REFUSE all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!),” Trump tweeted Friday.

But the shipping companies – and the American business community – pushed back.

FedEx and UPS both said in a statement they already work to identify and remove illegal shipments.

“FedEx already has extensive security measures in place to prevent the use of our networks for illegal purposes. We follow the laws and regulations everywhere we do business and have a long history of close cooperation with authorities,” the company said.

“UPS takes a multi-layered approach to security and compliance to identify and prevent delivery of illegal Fentanyl and other illicit substances as well as any other attempts of noncompliant shipments,” the shipping business said.

Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street after Trump’s comments: the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 300 points after the president made the announcements on Twitter.

The stocks of all three companies the president mentioned also dropped as traders tried to understand what the implications for them were.

Meanwhile, Trump also lashed out at the Federal Reserve after its chairman, Jerome Powell, stopped short of saying the U.S. central bank is prepared to cut interest rates for a second time this year.

In a tweet, Trump compared Powell — whom he’s repeatedly criticized, despite hand-picking him almost two years ago — to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!” Trump tweeted, initially misspelling Powell’s last name before changing it. “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel or Chairman Xi?”

China added fentanyl products to the country’s list of narcotics subject to state control after Xi Jinping met with Trump in December 2018, but the White House says it has not seen substantial action on blocking major shipments.

His tweet came shortly after Powell gave a speech at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium in Wyoming, during which he promised policymakers will “act as appropriate” to sustain the record economic expansion. The economic outlook, Powell said, remains strong, despite uncertainties resulting from the U.S.-China trade war, slowing global growth and muted inflation.

Stocks had been wavering between gains and losses earlier after China said it would retaliate against the latest round of tariffs imposed by Washington with duties on $75 billion of U.S. products.

China said Friday that it will also increase import duties on U.S.-made autos and auto parts. The retaliation pulled global markets into negative territory

Tariffs of 10 percent and 5 percent will take effect on two batches of goods on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. Beijing gave no details of what goods would be affected but the timing matches Trump’s planned hikes.

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