Donald Trump admits to second thoughts over China trade war
Donald Trump has admitted to having second thoughts about the worsening trade war with China, amid criticism from the US’s allies at the G7 summit in Biarritz.
At a breakfast meeting with the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, Trump was asked if he was rethinking his decision to escalate tariffs against China, and replied: “Yeah, sure. Why not?” Asked again, he repeated: “Might as well. Might as well … I have second thoughts about everything.”
However, the US president insisted China’s approach to trade had been “outrageous”.
Presidents and administrations allowed them to get away with taking hundreds of billions of dollars out every year and putting it into China,” he said.
The US has long accused China of dumping, forced technology transfers, and wholesale intellectual property theft.
Trump denied he had come under pressure from other leaders at the G7 summit, a club of major industrialised democracies, to ease up on tariffs.
“Nobody’s told me that. Nobody would tell me that,” he said.
But Johnson, speaking alongside him, did object, albeit politely.
After congratulating Trump on “everything the American economy is achieving”, the prime minister added:
“But just to register a faint sheeplike note of our view on the trade war: we’re in favour of trade peace on the whole, and dialling it down if we can.
We think that, on the whole, the UK has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade, and that’s what we want to see … we don’t like tariffs on the whole.”
“How about the last three years?” Trump responded, laughing. “Don’t talk about the last three. Two hundred, I agree with you.”
The previous day, Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, noted: “Trade wars will lead to recession, while trade deals will boost the economy.”
Trump had threatened to use national security powers to declare an emergency to force US companies to leave China, triggering accusations that that would involve abuse of presidential powers that were not intended for executive control over commercial decisions.
But Trump insisted he would be acting within his rights.
“I have the right to, if I want,” the president said. “I could declare a national emergency. I think when they steal and take out, and – intellectual property theft, anywhere from $300bn to $500bn a year, and where we have a total loss of almost a trillion dollars a year – for many years, this has been going on – in many ways, that’s an emergency.”
Trump said, however, he would not be invoking the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act (originally intended to help the White House isolate rogue regimes) for the time being.
“I have no plan right now,” Trump said. “Actually, we’re getting along very well with China right now.
We’re talking. I think they want to make a deal much more than I do. We’re getting a lot of money in tariffs. It’s coming in by the billions.
We never got 10 cents from China. So we’ll see what happens. But we are talking to China very seriously.”