President Trump on Monday defended his administration’s decision to threaten a number of trading partners like Mexico with tariffs, calling tariffs a “beautiful thing” and asserting that a trade deal with China was close because of his aggressive policies.
“The China deal is going to work out,” Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview with Joe Kernen, the host of “Squawk Box” on CNBC. “You know why? Because of tariffs. Because right now China is getting absolutely decimated by countries that are leaving China, going to other countries, including our own.”
Mr. Trump said his threat of tariffs on Mexico showed that his approach was working and would ultimately convince China to agree to America’s trade demands.
In the past month, the Trump administration has doubled down on its efforts to pressure its partners, largely because Mr. Trump knows he can impose tariffs unilaterally. Efforts to pressure China to relent on trade have included raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and taking steps to tax nearly all of the country’s imports.
The president, who has long used tariffs as a way to pressure trading partners to relent on other issues including security and immigration, tried to stress in the interview that his policy of issuing economic threats was unorthodox but effective.
“People haven’t used tariffs,” Mr. Trump said, “but tariffs are a beautiful thing when you are the piggy bank, when you have all the money — everyone is trying to get our money.”
Still, the president’s comments on Monday contrasted with the defiance displayed by Chinese officials, who have blamed the United States for hindering negotiations to reach a deal.
“China will never give in on major issues of principle,” a white paper circulated by Chinese government officials said just last week. “China isn’t willing to fight a trade war, but it isn’t afraid to fight and will fight if necessary.”
In the CNBC interview, Mr. Trump predicted China was “going to make a deal because they’re going to have to make a deal.”
Mr. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are both expected to attend the Group of 20 summit meeting later this month in Osaka. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said that the two leaders would meet in Osaka, but Chinese officials have not confirmed a meeting. On Monday, Mr. Trump told CNBC that tariffs would continue if Mr. Xi did not show up.
Mr. Trump also said that his plan to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods was called off late last week because the country had relented on his threats.
“As soon as I put tariffs on the table,” Mr. Trump said, “I was done. It took two days.”
The president has spent the past two days railing against a report on Saturday in The New York Times that showed the major terms of the deal, including Mexican plans to devote more resources to secure its border, were struck months ago.
A joint declaration issued on Friday said that Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border,” but officials had already secretly agreed to do this back in March during talks led by Kirstjen Nielsen, the former secretary of Homeland Security.
Before Monday’s CNBC interview, Mr. Trump again took aim at the report, calling it a “badly reported ‘hit job’ on me.” The Times has told the president that it stood by its reporting.
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