Trump’s Comments on France and China Trade Send Stocks Plummeting

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French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump meet at Winfield House, in London. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock
December 3, 2019

Markets plunged Tuesday morning after President Trump seemed to raise the stakes in U.S. trade relations with both France and China.

During the NATO summit in London, he doubled-down on threats to tax French goods in retaliation for the country's taxes on U.S. tech and also suggested the China trade deal may be delayed until after the 2020 election.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer announced that the administration is considering imposing $2.4 billion in tariffs on France in retaliation for its digital tax, which investigators found would harm American technology companies. The U.S. would target cheese, Champagne, handbags, and more with tariffs of up to 100 percent.

"The American companies — the tech companies — they're not my favorite people because they are not for me," Trump said to reporters while sitting next to French President Emmanuel Macron at a NATO meeting this morning. "We want to tax them [U.S. tech companies], that's not for someone else to tax."

Macron said he believed "we can settle this situation with President Trump."

"I'm not in love with those companies. If anybody is going to take advantage of our companies, it's going to be us," Trump said during the meeting that covered the British election, the U.S. impeachment inquiry, and Trump's support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The two leaders spoke Tuesday at a summit meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of NATO — an alliance both have targeted in the past. Macron recently said NATO was experiencing "brain death," which Trump said was a "very, very nasty," and "insulting statement," though he once called NATO "obsolete."

Before the market even opened, futures were clearly taking a hit after Trump said there is "no deadline" on a trade deal with China. The S&P 500, Nasdaq, and the Dow were down more than 1 percent this morning.

"In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal," Trump said before the two-day NATO summit started this morning in London.U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are set to rise on December 15 if a Phase 1 deal is not reached. Last month the administration indicated such a deal was close to being finalized, but after Trump signed off on legislation imposing sanctions on those who violate human rights in Hong Kong, it seemed the deal was off.