WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has said he views the phase one trade deal inked between the US and China differently in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Escalating Sino-US tensions have fuelled uncertainty over whether China would fulfil promises made in the phase one trade deal signed in January to dramatically increase purchases of US farm goods.
The agreement has come under scrutiny as Beijing lags behind its promised purchase commitments and as Mr Trump has blamed China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I guess I view the trade deal a little bit differently than I did three months ago,” Mr Trump said on Friday at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
“Getting along with China would be a good thing. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.
“I’ll let you know.”
Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products got caught in the tariff war between the two nations in the past couple of years.
For its part, Beijing began imposing a levy on a long list of imports from the US, including live lobsters, in 2018.
Mr Trump on Friday also threatened to impose tariffs on cars made in the EU and on unspecified Chinese products unless the trading partners reduce their duties on American lobster.
“If the European Union doesn’t drop that tariff immediately, we’re going to put a tariff on their cars, which would be equivalent,” Mr Trump said at a roundtable event in Maine with commercial fishermen and the state’s former governor Paul LePage, a Republican.
“It’ll be the equivalent, plus,” he added.
RELATIONS WITH CHINA
Getting along with China would be a good thing. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I’ll let you know.
MR DONALD TRUMP, at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
Mr Trump has frequently threatened to impose tariffs on EU-made cars in disputes with the region’s governments.
The threat over lobster comes as Mr Trump has sought to change the subject from his widely criticised handling of the coronavirus outbreak and nationwide protests over police brutality.
“Peter Navarro’s going to be the Lobster King now, OK?” Mr Trump said, referring to the White House trade adviser and China hawk.
The President said of the Chinese that he would impose tariffs on “something they sell that’s very precious to them”.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow separately said the two sides are still in touch on the phase one trade deal reached between the world’s two biggest economies earlier this year, but that more action against China is possible as the President weighs a response to the country’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
The Trump administration has been in talks with the EU for months over a limited trade deal, but there has been little progress.
The President has frequently threatened tariffs on vehicles imported from the EU, mainly to get the trading bloc to agree to negotiations and force German automakers to commit to new investments in the US.
But both EU officials and lawmakers stopped taking the threat seriously months ago.
US Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley led talks in Congress to overhaul the tariff law under which Mr Trump is seeking to impose duties on the EU, but those negotiations stalled last year.