By Sophie Tatum, CNN
President Donald Trump on Wednesday sought to assure farmers that he has their back, as some begin to feel the effects of the escalating trade war with China.
“China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S.,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning.
“They are being vicious in what will be their failed attempt. We were being nice – until now! China made $517 Billion on us last year,” he continued.
It’s unclear which figure Trump is referencing in his tweet. Commerce Department data show the US trade gap with China was $335.7 billion last year — by far the biggest imbalance with any trading partner but a figure smaller than the one cited by the President.
The tweet follows Trump’s message at a VFW event in Missouri on Tuesday, in which the President implored farmers — many of whom reside in key swing states the helped power him to victory in 2016 — to weather the pain from the trade fight.
“We’re opening up markets,” he said Tuesday. “You watch what’s going to happen. Just be a little patient.”
China has announced retaliatory tariffs on various US agricultural products, including soybeans, grains, meats and dairy products, as a response to Trump’s plan to impose $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports.
The Trump administration has planned an emergency aid package that would offer up to $12 billion for farmers hurt by tariffs caused by the trade dispute.
“This is a short-term solution that will give President Trump and his administration time to work on long term trade deals to benefit agriculture and all sectors of the American economy,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
However, some Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been critical of the plan, including South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune.
“It’s a short-term solution and it doesn’t solve any of the problems agriculture’s got right now,” Thune previously said. “What (US agriculture) needs is more markets, expanded markets. These policies are restricting markets, and to offset that they are going to make, basically, payments to farmers to recognize the loss they have experienced. But it’s just not the right way to do it.”