Elon Musk Tweets Trump: China Trade Rules Like Racing With 'Lead Shoes'

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk weighed in Thursday on Donald Trump's looming trade war with China, bombarding the president with a series of tweets focusing on unequal auto import tariffs.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted about China's "massive trade deficit with the United States," and Musk responded the next morning by suggesting the two countries should have "equal & fair rules for cars," such as "import duties, ownership constraints & other factors."

"Do you think the US & China should have equal & fair rules for cars? Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints & other factors," Musk tweeted on Thursday morning.

He added, "For example, an American car going to China pays 25% import duty, but a Chinese car coming to the US only pays 2.5%, a tenfold difference."

Do you think the US & China should have equal & fair rules for cars? Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints & other factors.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 8, 2018

I am against import duties in general, but the current rules make things very difficult. It’s like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 8, 2018

Musk continued the thread by saying the current discrepancy between the U.S. and China's tariffs on cars makes things "very difficult" and is like "competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes." He then added that he had raised this issue with the Obama administration but "nothing happened."

"Just want a fair outcome, ideally where tariffs/rules are equally moderate. Nothing more. Hope this does not seem unreasonable," Musk tweeted. "To be clear, I think a fair outcome for all is quite likely. China has already shown a willingness to open their markets and I believe they will do the right thing."

Although Trump did not reply to Musk's comments online, he did address it later on Thursday at a press conference called to announce new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Bloomberg reported.

"We send our car over there, pay 25 percent. They send their car over here, 2.5 percent. That's from Elon, but everybody knows it. They've known it for years. They never did anything about it. It's got to change," the president said, seemingly taking the lead from Musk.

Trump then went on to announce unspecified plans for upcoming "reciprocal taxes or "mirror taxes," again directly addressing Musk's issue of disparity between U.S. tariffs and those imposed by other countries. Although the president did not go into any detail about these new plans, he mentioned China and India before saying that "we're going to be doing a lot of that."

In 2016, Tesla sold $1 billion of electric cars in China, the company reported. One year later, that figure doubled to over $2 billion. The company's latest annual report has flagged tariffs as one of the biggest threats plaguing its international operations.

Watch Trump's Thursday press conference on steel and aluminum tariffs below: