US President Donald Trump has walked back hopes about a comprehensive trade deal with China to end the year-and-a-half long trade spat, suggesting that Beijing was much more interested in making a deal than the US was.
“The trade talks with China are moving along, I think, very nicely and if we make a deal that we want it will be a great deal and if it’s not a great deal, I won’t make it,” he said, speaking to reporters at Joint Base Andrews outside on Saturday.
“I’d like to make a deal but it’s got to be the right deal,” Trump added, saying that the US Treasury was collecting tens of billions of dollars in tariffs from the Chinese.
“China very much wants to make a deal,” Trump said. “They’re having the worst year they’ve had in 57 years. Their supply chain is all broken, like an egg, they want to make a deal, perhaps they have to make a deal. I don’t know, I don’t care, that’s up to them.”
At the same time, Trump boasted that “our stock market has just broken another record, as you see, our economy is doing phenomenally well, our jobs numbers just broke yet another record – they’re higher than ever before. Our country is doing better than it’s ever done.”
A day earlier, Trump told reporters that he did not agree to ease the tariff regime on China, even though Beijing supposedly would “like him to do so,” following reports that the two sides had agreed to reduce some levies on one another’s products in a goodwill gesture.
The year-and-a-half long trade spat between the world’s largest economies has affected hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from both countries. Last week, US and Chinese officials confirmed that they had made substantial progress on a deal and had reached a “consensus of principles,” with Trump telling reporters that he would like to see the deal demonstratively signed somewhere in the US, possibly in Iowa, by himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Also last week, the US Commerce Department issued a third extension to licenses to US tech companies to continue doing business with Huawei Technologies despite formal restrictions placed on the tech giant earlier this year.
The Trump administration kicked off the trade spat with China in May 2018, with the conflict since escalating to affect hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods, including virtually the entirety of Chinese goods coming into the US. Trump said the US tariffs were aimed at settling years of alleged unfair treatment by Chinese companies and by the Chinese government, whom he accused of currency manipulation and technology theft. China has denied such claims.
On Tuesday, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development concluded that the trade conflict has cut Chinese exports to the US by $35 billion in the first half of 2019, with increased trade with Taiwan, Mexico, the European Union and other countries making up about $21 billion of that, with another $14 billion lost due to lower US consumer demand and/or insufficient production capacity from the rest of the world.
Last month, China’s Q3 growth slowed to 6 percent, the country’s lowest since 1992, but still within the government’s target range of 6-6.5 percent for the year despite the US trade spat.