US President Donald Trump . Picture: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS
US President Donald Trump . Picture: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS

Washington — US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he is ordering US companies to look at ways to close their operations in China and make more of their products in the US instead, a rhetorical strike at Beijing as trade tensions mounted.

Trump cannot legally compel US companies to abandon China immediately and he gave no detail on how he might proceed with any such order, although he said he would be offering a response later on Friday to tariffs on American products announced by China earlier in the day

The dollar rose sharply against the Chinese yuan and US stock markets fell on Trump’s latest salvo against China.

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them.”

For many products sold in the US, there are few alternatives to Chinese production, and shifting production for major goods produced there could take years and be expensive.

Last week, Trump backed off his September 1 deadline for 10% tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, delaying duties on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods.

The US trade representative’s office delayed tariffs on more than half the $300bn in Chinese-made goods telling companies the delay covered product categories in which China supplies more than 75% of total US imports.