Earlier this month, the United States levied tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, prompting retaliation from China that has hit U.S. farmers particularly hard, including in states that Trump won in 2016.
Trump already has approved levies on an additional $16 billion in Chinese products.
“Look, I’m not doing this for politics,” Trump said during the interview broadcast on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that was recorded Thursday. “I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country. We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”
Asked about the prospect of a stock market plunge in response to larger-scale tariffs, Trump said: “Well, if it does, it does.”
Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping maintain a good relationship despite the growing dispute over trade.
His comments in the CNBC interview echoed a threat made during remarks to reporters on Air Force One two weeks ago as the first round of tariffs took effect.
Trump’s use of tariffs has drawn criticism from some prominent lawmakers, including some in his own party.
Earlier this week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — a staunch Trump ally on many other issues — delivered a speech on the Senate floor threatening to move ahead with legislation that would rein in Trump’s trade authority.
Hatch took aim at tariffs imposed by Trump not only on China but also on U.S. allies and partners in Europe, Canada and Mexico.
“If the administration continues forward with its misguided and reckless reliance on tariffs, I will work to advance trade legislation to curtail presidential trade authority,” Hatch said.
During a series of morning tweets Friday, Trump sought to reassure farmers anxious about his trade policies, saying he was aiming to fix a long-term downward trend in prices.
“A big reason is bad (terrible) Trade Deals with other countries,” Trump said. “They put on massive Tariffs and Barriers. Canada charges 275% on Dairy. Farmers will WIN!”