President Donald Trump said the US is “doing very well with China, and talking”, but suggested he wasn’t ready to sign a trade deal, hours after his top economic adviser laid out a potential timeline for the resumption of substantive discussions with Beijing.
Trump vowed that the US was “poised for big growth” after various trade deals are reached. But speaking to reporters as he departed New Jersey for Washington on Sunday, Trump said China needs a trade agreement more than the US given the relatively weak condition of the Asian nation’s economy.
The president tied trade negotiations with the ongoing situation in Hong Kong on camera for the first time, saying that a deal between the US and China would be harder if there’s a violent conclusion to protests there because of concerns raised by US lawmakers. He tweeted last week that “of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!”
Trump also pushed back on media reports this weekend that the US commerce department is poised, as soon as Monday, to renew Huawei Technologies’ temporary general licence to buy supplies for the US. “Huawei is a company that we may not do business with at all,” Trump said, calling the Chinese company a “national security threat”.
“We’ll see what happens. I’m making a decision tomorrow,” Trump said.
FedEx, meanwhile, is in more trouble in China, after Fujian province started an investigation into a package containing a gun that the company delivered to a firm in China. FedEx was already under investigation after Huawei said it misdirected some packages, and China has been preparing to add the US company to a blacklist of so-called unreliable entities, people familiar with the matter have said.
White House economic director Larry Kudlow said earlier on Sunday that recent phone calls between US and Chinese trade negotiators had been “positive”, potentially opening the door to further progress toward a deal.
More teleconference meetings with Chinese negotiators are planned over the next week to 10 days, the White House National Economic Council director said on Fox News Sunday.
“If those deputies meetings pan out, as we hope they will, and we can have a substantive renewal of negotiations, then we are planning to have China come to the USA and meet with our principals to continue the negotiations and the talks,” Kudlow added.
Kudlow and Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, made multiple appearances on Sunday talk shows to discuss the economy and China trade prospects after a tumultuous week in financial markets that included an 800-point dip in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday, its worst rout of the year.
The state of the economy is key to Trump’s re-election prospects in 2020; a downturn would dim the outlook for a president whose approval ratings have stayed stubbornly low. Major US equity indices, often referenced by Trump as a litmus test of his success, are essentially flat over the past 12 months.
US-China trade tension boiled over this month after a brief detente. The US declared it would expand tariffs on Chinese goods from 1 September and China responded with a boycott of American farm products and allowed its currency to weaken, signalling that this can help cushion the tariff blow. The US then officially declared China a currency manipulator.
Trump and his top aides have said repeatedly that Beijing, not US companies or consumers, are bearing the brunt of the tariffs imposed on imports from China. Trump tweeted on Sunday that China is “eating” the tariffs. — Reported by Hailey Waller, Jordan Yadoo and Jennifer Jacobs, with assistance from Katia Dmitrieva, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP