WASHINGTON (NY TIMES)- US President Donald Trump said on Friday (Sept 20) that China was a "threat to the world" and suggested Beijing was eager to make a trade deal because his tariffs were hurting the Chinese economy, coarsening his tone as the two countries prepared to resume negotiations.
The Trump administration has closely tied economic policy and national security and, in remarks at the White House, Trump said that China was using money pilfered from the United States through unfair trade practices to build up its military. The comments come as mid-level officials from both countries have been holding talks in Washington this week ahead of a planned meeting between senior trade negotiators next month.
"Obviously, China is a threat to the world in a sense, because they're building a military faster than anybody," Trump said. "I view China in many different ways. But right now, I'm thinking about trade. But, you know, trade equals military." Trump also tried to put to rest speculation that he might settle for an interim deal to give markets a lift ahead of the presidential election next year.
"I'm looking for a complete deal, I'm not looking for a partial deal," Trump said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia. "We're looking for the big deal."
Trump has imposed tariffs on US$360 billion (S$495 billion) of Chinese goods and plans to tax nearly all imports from China by the end of the year. The president said that the tariffs have not had an impact on the US economy, despite vocal complaints from American businesses, who say that their costs are going up and their supply chains are being disrupted.
Many of those businesses have applied to the US Trade Representative for relief from the tariffs and, on Friday, the administration excluded hundreds of products from being taxed.
Those products include imported dog leashes, plastic straws and Christmas tree lighting sets.
Despite Trump's renewed criticism of China, the two countries have been taking steps to ease tension in recent weeks as they try to resolve a dispute that has cast a cloud over the global economy. China has recently allowed its companies to resume purchases of some American farm products after Trump agreed to delay increasing tariffs on another batch of Chinese imports by two weeks, to Oct 15.
As part of a deal, China wants the United States to roll back the tariffs that it imposed and lift restrictions on American companies doing business with Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant. In addition to buying more American agricultural products, the United States wants China to make sweeping changes to its industrial policy, protect American intellectual property and open its market to American businesses.
But it remains evident that mending the relationship between United States and China will not happen easily.
During a speech in New York this week, Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the United States, squarely blamed the United States for the trade war.
"The trade war the US launched and repeatedly escalated was based on a wrong rationale in the very beginning, and its negative impact has now hit both countries and spilled over to the whole world," he said.
A Chinese delegation, led by Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu, was planning to visit farms in Montana on Monday and Tuesday. But on Friday morning, the Montana Farm Bureau was alerted that the visit had been cancelled because the group had to return early to China, according to Scott Kulbeck, director of membership development at the bureau.
On Friday, Trump insisted that even though the relationship between the United States and China has soured on his watch, he continues to have fond feelings for China's leader Xi Jinping.
"My relationship with President Xi is a very amazing one, very good one," he said. "But we have right now a little spat."