President Trump on Wednesday played down the importance of securing a trade deal with China as he prepared to meet with President Xi Jinping of China this weekend, saying he was ready to proceed with additional tariffs if negotiations between the countries failed to get back on track.
Mr. Trump said it was “possible” that a deal could ultimately be reached and that China was eager for an agreement. But he said he was prepared to impose tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese products, on top of the 25 percent levy he has already placed on $250 billion of Chinese imports. Mr. Trump also indicated he might limit the next round of tariffs to just 10 percent.
“My plan B is maybe my plan A,” the president said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “My plan B is that if we don’t make a deal, I will tariff and maybe not at 25 percent, but maybe at 10 percent, but I will tariff the rest of the $600 billion that we’re talking about.”
Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi are scheduled to discuss the continuing trade tensions on Saturday at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan. But although both the United States and China are feeling the burden of a bruising trade war, there appears to be little chance of a quick resolution to an economic conflict that has beaten down companies and consumers on both sides of the Pacific.
In many ways, the ability to strike a deal has gotten harder since talks collapsed in early May, when steady progress toward a trade agreement halted suddenly after the United States accused China of reneging on previous promises. Both sides have hardened their positions since then.
Mr. Trump said in the interview on Wednesday that the United States would insist on the same provisions that were included in the deal that fell apart, including protections on American intellectual property.
In addition to preparing to impose tariffs on more Chinese goods, the United States has increased pressure by trying to cut the telecommunications firm Huawei and other Chinese companies off from American components in an effort to severely damage their ability to operate.
China has responded by imposing its own higher tariffs on goods from the United States. Beijing has also said it would draw up its own blacklist of American companies that it viewed as “unreliable,” a move meant to retaliate against the United States for cutting Chinese companies off from American technology.
There is incentive in both the United States and China to get the negotiations back on track. The United States economy is at risk as a result the trade war and the Federal Reserve has cited uncertainty surrounding trade policy as a reason it may cut interest rates. Stock markets have rallied and plummeted in turn with the president’s remarks on China.
The tariffs have also hurt the Chinese economy, piling on to the effects of a sharp but temporary credit crunch last year. Mr. Trump’s current tariffs extend to roughly 2 percent of China’s economic output. Consumer confidence is weak, and growth in industrial production has slowed to a crawl.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump once again claimed that China was bearing the full burden of the tariffs, not the United States, an idea that economists have disputed. He said the United States was “taking in a fortune” because of his levies, and that many companies were deciding to move out of China.
After pausing talks for several weeks, both sides have once again resumed negotiations. Mr. Trump hosted a call with Mr. Xi last week, while Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Robert Lighthizer, the top trade negotiator, spoke to their counterpart, Liu He, China’s vice premier, on Monday.
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