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Trump takes credit for economy despite rising costs

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US President threatens to increase tariffs if trade pact with China fails to materialise

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Tuesday took credit for an American economic renaissance but was greeted by another salvo from US industries that blame his trade wars for jeopardising jobs, wounding business and burdening consumers with higher costs.

While he said the partial trade deal he announced last month with China was "close", he warned he would jack up tariffs even further should the pact fail to materialise.

"A deal could happen soon," Mr Trump said following an address to the Economic Club of New York.

"We'll only accept a deal acceptable for Americans."

But a report released simultaneously by the Port of Los Angeles flatly contradicted the White House message that the United States is easily weathering Mr Trump's trade conflict.

It warned the trade war threatens almost 1.5 million US jobs which depend on the movement of goods through ports in southern California that are heavily reliant on trade with China.

"Some regions and industries are already feeling the pain and the damage to jobs, income and tax revenue could be crippling down the road," Mr Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said.

Higher import costs and lost markets also pose a risk to US$186 billion (S$253 billion) in annual merchandise trade through the ports and will burden consumers with billions of dollars in price increases, it said.

As of last month, cargo volume at the ports is down more than 19 per cent compared with October of last year, the report said. Complaints from US business have become louder this year as the trade war has dragged on while farms and factories fall on hard times.

Mr Trump launched his trade battle with China last year, accusing Beijing of trying to dominate industries across the globe through subsidies, theft of intellectual property and other practices.


Companies were relieved when Mr Trump last month announced a substantial "phase one" deal with Beijing but there is no word on when the agreement will be signed.

"If we don't make a deal, we're going to substantially raise those tariffs," Mr Trump said on Tuesday.

But economists warn the trade war has begun to rattle the global economy and also hit the US, eroding exports and business investment, sending manufacturing into decline and helping put the brakes on hiring.

The International Monetary Fund said last month the trade wars are likely to shave 0.8 per cent off global growth next year and was eating into business investment in the US. - AFP