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Trump pledges second-term tit-for-tat tariffs: ‘It’s called you screw us, and we screw you’

Former President Trump on Friday signaled he would engage in escalatory trade wars with foreign nations if reelected, a tactic he employed during his first term that economists have warned could worsen inflation.

Trump, speaking at a rally in South Carolina on the eve of the primary there, told supporters that would enact the “Trump Reciprocal Trade Act” if he wins a second term.

“If China or any other country makes us pay a tariff of, let’s say 100 [percent], or 200 [percent], or even 300 percent, and they do that, we will make them pay a reciprocal identical tariff of 100 [percent] or 200 [percent] or 300 percent right back,” Trump said to applause.

“It’s called you screw us, and we screw you. Very simple,” he added. “As tariffs on foreign countries go up, taxes on American workers and families will come down very substantially.”

Trump frequently deployed tariffs during his first term in office, targeting imports from China and the European Union and sparking tit-for-tat trade wars. Beijing’s tariffs on U.S. products hit American farmers particularly hard, forcing the government to provide aid to many farmers.

The former president has signaled he would similarly rely on tariffs in a potential second term.

Trump last August said in an interview with Fox Business Network that foreign companies should automatically pay a 10 percent tax, which he claimed would not stop business, but “would really make a lot of money.”

The proposal drew blowback from the Biden White House and from The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which suggested that “Americans should be prepared to pay more for all kinds of goods” under the proposal.

They pointed to an analysis from the Tax Foundation that found tariffs cost American consumers $80 billion and 166,000 full-time-equivalent jobs during the Trump administration.

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