WASHINGTON – The trade war between the United States and China showed no signs of yielding Thursday, as Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told lawmakers there was no clear path to resolution and Beijing blasted the administration over its approach.
Mnuchin, who has tried to avoid calling the trade tensions with China a "war," said talks with Beijing had "broken down" and suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions. President Donald Trump, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, described the trade talks with China as a "nasty" battle.
The Chinese, meanwhile, accused the United States of "acting erratically" and said the administration had "blatantly abandoned the consensuses that two sides have reached and insisted on fighting a trade war with China."
Republicans and Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee showed little patience for Mnuchin's answers about the lack of progress, repeatedly pressing him about whether there was a strategy to resolve the trade war and expressing concern that it was starting to hurt parts of the economy.
The White House has already hit Beijing with tariffs on $34 billion worth of imports, and China has responded with a similar amount of levies on U.S. goods, including soybeans, pork and cars. On Tuesday, the administration outlined tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese products, including many consumer products like furniture, dog leashes and fish.
"Is there a master plan?" asked Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah. "I implore you to work to end this thing soon."
Lawmakers from both parties have been bombarded with complaints about tariffs from soybean farmers, carmakers, nail manufacturers and other businesses about the fate of their industries as they are starting to face higher steel and aluminum costs and feel the pain of retaliation from Europe and China.
On Thursday they pressed Mnuchin, who is seen as a voice of moderation on trade in the administration, to persuade Trump to back away from the trade war.
Mnuchin defended the administration's approach and insisted that economic growth remained Trump's priority.