China blasts Trump and escalates trade battle after he makes abrupt reversal on tariffs

  • President Donald Trump announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods would go forward despite an broad trade agreement.

  • In a response, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it was "surprised" by the move but at the same time "somewhat expected" it.

  • The Chinese also promised to "defend the core interests of the people and the nations" in response to Trump's crackdown.

The Chinese government urged President Donald Trump to come back to the negotiating table after the White House announced that the US would move forward with a crackdown on trade with China.

The Trump administration said Tuesday that tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods would be finalized by June 15 despite a trade agreement reached between the two countries earlier this month. Following the agreement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the tariffs were "on hold."

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce took a subtle dig at Trump's constant back-and-forth on trade issues.

"We are surprised by the strategic statement released by the White House, but, at the same time, it is somewhat expected," the statement said. "It is obviously against the consensus reached by the US and China in Washington recently."

The possibility of inflamed trade tensions, coming just over a week after a trade war with China seemed unlikely, helped contribute to a tumble in US markets. The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 400 points, or 1.6%, as of 12:30 p.m. ET.

In the statement, China also promised to defend its domestic economy in the event that the Trump administration continues the trade attacks.

"No matter what the actions that the US plans to take, China has the confidence, the capability and the experience to defend the core interests of the people and the nation," the statement said.

In addition to the tariffs, the White House also announced forthcoming restrictions on Chinese investment in US tech companies.

The back-and-forth comes just days before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to go to Beijing to continue talks with Chinese officials. It's unclear the status of the agreement now that US tariffs look set to go forward.

Even with the overall tough tone of the statement, the Chinese ended on a conciliatory note.

"China urges the United States of meet us halfway with the spirit of our joint statement," the Commerce Ministry spokesperson said.

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