President Donald Trump wishes he raised tariffs on Chinese products even higher last week, the White House said on Sunday, even as Trump pointed out that he had not planned to pursue a requirement that U.S. companies discover methods to close activities in China.
Trump lifted his eyes on the sidelines of a G7 summit when he answered reporters ‘ affirmative questions as to whether he had any second ideas about increasing Chinese goods tariffs by 5%.
“President Trump responded in the affirmative – because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” Speaker of the White House Stephanie Grisham subsequently said in a declaration that attempted to clarify the comments of the president.
Trump announced on Friday, hours after China revealed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products worth $75 billion, the extra obligation on some $550 billion in targeted Chinese products.
The move was the recent round in a tit-for-tat trade war between the two largest economies in the globe that has harmed worldwide development, upset allies, and raised market concerns that the global economy will plunge into recession.
Just hours after Trump said he ordered U.S. firms to find “alternatives” to China, including closing activities there and shifting manufacturing to the U.S.
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump could order businesses out of China if he declared a national emergency.
However, Trump stated on Sunday that at this moment he was not planning such a move.
“I could declare a national emergency. I think when they steal and take out, and — intellectual property theft, anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion a year, and where we have a total loss of almost a trillion dollars a year … in many ways, that’s an emergency,” he said.
“I have no plan right now. Actually, we’re getting along very well with China right now. We’re talking,” Trump said.
Mnuchin said the president wanted U.S. companies to begin looking for investors to move away from China, stating they’d be better off in case the U.S .- China trade conflict lasted long.
“We want them to be in places where they’re trading partners that respect us and trade with us fairly,” he said on the “Fox News Sunday” program.
Trump was asked if he had second ideas about his recent escalation during his conference with Johnson in France on Sunday.
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” he said.
The reporter repeated the question and Trump answered the question: “Might as well. Might as well.”
A second reporter went on to ask if he had any second ideas about escalating the trade war with China.
“I have second thoughts about everything,” Trump responded.
Asked to explain Trump’s comments, Mnuchin, who is one of the leading U.S. negotiators in Beijing’s trade talks, said Trump stayed determined to try to force China’s concessions.
Another senior official said he did not believe that Beijing would retaliate for the recent tariff rise.
“I think his was an action to respond to their action. So I doubt whether they’re going to take another step,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Mnuchin said that, despite an otherwise decent partnership, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were now “enemies” to trade.
“President Xi is still his friend,” he said. “But as it relates to financial issues and trade, we have become enemies. We’re not making progress.”