“If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs,” he said.
The United States levies tariffs on $360 billion in Chinese products and is scheduled to hit all remaining imports — including popular consumer goods — starting Dec. 15.
A White House representative did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
The president’s campaign-style remarks, in the same midtown Hilton Hotel ballroom where he welcomed his improbable 2016 election triumph, came as Washington braced for the start of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.
The approximately hour-long speech was a “greatest hits” of Trump’s economic record. In the president’s telling, he rescued the nation from a “slow inevitable decline” that would have decimated the struggling middle class with “a new economic policy that finally puts America first.”
By cutting taxes, slashing regulations and targeting foreign trade cheats, the president paved the way for what he called “an unprecedented tide of prosperity surging all throughout the nation.”
He touted job growth, record-low African American unemployment, wage gains for low-income workers and a surge in domestic energy production, citing a blizzard of sometimes suspect statistics. He claimed, for example, that manufacturing employment had grown by “over 600,000,” far more than the 443,000 reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As he campaigns for a second term, the president can boast of a growing economy, which has brought unemployment near a half-century low at 3.6 percent. On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) small-business optimism index posted a better-than-expected 102.4 reading, up from 101.8 in September.
Small-business owners’ capital spending plans hit a five-month high, but remain below year-ago levels.
In recent weeks, recession fears have eased as a closely watched bond market signal, the yield curve, moved back into positive territory. Though business investment has declined for two consecutive quarters, consumers are continuing to spend and the economy is creating new jobs.
Still, the president’s claims of a “boom” are undercut by the government’s own statistics.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s real-time forecast pegs fourth-quarter growth at an anemic 1 percent annual rate, down from 1.9 percent in the third quarter.
Trump also sketched a zero-sum view of the global economy that was at odds with those of his predecessors, who linked the flowering of consumer societies overseas with export-oriented jobs for Americans at home.
“The world is a place of fierce competition — we are competing against other nations for jobs, industry, growth and prosperity,” the president said. “Factories and businesses will always find a home — it is up to us to decide whether that home will be in a foreign country, or right here in our country.”
Speaking just five miles from Wall Street, the president celebrated the stock market, which hit a record shortly before he spoke. Since Election Day 2016, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 51 percent.
Trump said markets would have risen by an additional 25 percent if the Federal Reserve had kept interest rates lower.
“I am proud to stand before you as president to report that we have delivered on our promises — and exceeded our expectations by a very wide margin,” Trump said. “We have ended the war on American workers, we have stopped the assault on American industry, and we have launched an economic boom the likes of which we have never seen before.”
At the heart of Trump’s economic agenda is a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. trade policy. The president said previous U.S. leaders “stood by and did nothing while China ransacked our economy . . . and dumped their products in a deliberate strategy to close American factories.”
The president last month announced an “agreement in principle” on a partial trade deal with China. But negotiators have struggled to finalize the terms.
Chinese officials are demanding that Trump scrap plans to impose tariffs on an additional $160 billion in Chinese goods next month and remove tariffs on $112 billion that took effect on Sept. 1.
Hopes for a truce in the U.S.-China trade war rose last month after the president announced an “agreement in principle” with Beijing on a partial deal.
Still, impatience with the president’s trade wars is growing among farmers and companies suffering lost sales abroad as trade barriers rise and the economy slows.
Trump dismissed a question about trade war casualties, saying: “They haven’t been hurt. They were totally down, now they’re a little bit down . . . The real cost would be if we did nothing.”