Donald Trump appears to have fabricated the story about a phone call by Chinese officials to members of his administration in a bid to prop up economic growth and, as a result, his 2020 campaign, CNN reports.
Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit in France on Monday, Trump said that “China called last night our top trade people and said, ‘Let’s get back to the table’.”
“They have been hurt very badly but they understand this is the right thing to do and I have great respect for it,” he added, expressing hope that a deal would be forged.
But two unnamed US officials told CNN that the president “was eager to project optimism that might boost markets, and conflated comments from China's vice premier with direct communication from the Chinese.”
Despite assertions by Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that there had been “communication” which Chinese trade officials, the aides “privately conceded the phone calls Trump described didn't happen the way he said they did.”
Neither the White House nor Trump have commented on the claim yet.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cast doubt on the veracity of Trump’s comments, saying he was not aware of the call: “I can tell you clearly that I haven’t heard of such a thing.”
Trump’s phone call story came up shortly after Vice-Premier Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator, noted that Beijing wanted a “calm” resolution to the trade war.
“He wants to see a deal made, he wants it to be made under calm conditions,” Trump said of Liu He’s statement. “He used the word ‘calm,’ I agree with him.”
The White House sources were quoted as saying that Trump’s language was meant to make up for a possible backlash from his electorate over the delay in the border wall's construction, as well as quell mounting recession concerns.
A 2019 survey by the National Association for Business Economists has found that more than 70 percent of economists think the United States will tip into its next recession by the end of 2021. Some predict it may happen even earlier.
One of the factors fuelling these fears is Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China, which he started last year under the pretext of eliminating the yawning trade gap and accusations of unfair trading.
The dispute saw Washington and Beijing exchange several rounds of multi-million-dollar tariffs. The latest one saw the United States hike duties on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. China in response slapped tariffs on $75 billion in US imports.
The two superpowers have been engaged in negotiations which have yielded no results so far; the latest positive signals from both sides of the table have elicited a measured response from the market, however.