INTERNATIONAL - President Donald Trump said Thursday that the U.S. and China are scheduled to have a conversation about trade today without giving details.
Trump’s comments followed signs from China that it wouldn’t immediately retaliate against the latest U.S. tariff increase and wanted to focus on removing new tariffs, to prevent a further escalation of the trade war.
“There is a talk scheduled for today at a different level,” Trump said when asked in a Fox News radio interview if planned September talks with China are still on. Hours later, neither side had confirmed whether a conversation had taken place.
Trump is under increasing pressure from Republican senators and others who say that uncertainty on trade is contributing to a U.S. economic slowdown.
Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, had told Politico: “There’s no question that trade uncertainty is contributing to the slowdown.”
Trump responded during the radio interview that he wasn’t going to give up, saying tariffs are working.
“So what does Pat Toomey want me to do? Does he want me to say, let me put my hands up, China? Continue to rip us off, just continue,” Trump said. “Let me give up right now China, even though we’re winning.”
For its own part, China continued to urge dialogue Friday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing in Beijing that the two sides “are maintaining effective communication.” “We hope the U.S. can demonstrate good faith and take real action to work in concert with China and find solutions together on the basis of mutual respect,” Geng said, repeating the government’s standard line.
A report earlier Thursday showed U.S. economic growth decelerated in the second quarter by more than initially reported, suggesting the president’s trade actions are weighing more heavily on the pace of expansion.
U.S. stocks rallied alongside European stocks Thursday as investors saw reason for trade-talk optimism. Shares in Tokyo, Sydney and Seoul advanced Friday on the final trading day of a tumultuous month. Investors have sent bond yields plummeting in recent weeks amid growing concern the record-long U.S. expansion is approaching an end.
“China has ample means for retaliation, but thinks the question that should be discussed now is about removing the new tariffs to prevent escalation of the trade war,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing on Thursday. “China is lodging solemn representations with the U.S. on the matter.”
When asked if that meant China wouldn’t retaliate at all for the latest escalation by the U.S., Gao didn’t elaborate but repeated the same comments. Gao’s commented amid signs China’s economy slowed further in August, according to a Bloomberg Economics gauge aggregating the earliest available indicators from financial markets and businesses.
The U.S. announced new tariff rates earlier this month on $300 billion of Chinese goods that will come into effect in September and December. Beijing then retaliated last week, announcing its own higher import taxes on U.S. products.
That prompted a reaction from Trump, who tweeted that existing 25% tariffs on some $250 billion in imports from China would rise to 30% on Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. He also pushed higher planned levies on $300 billion in Chinese goods due on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15.
“China’s been ripping off the United States,” Trump said in the interview with Fox News. “I think they want to make a deal, I sort of think they have to make a deal, and we’ll see what happens.”
Trump’s remarks follow comments Wednesday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said U.S. trade officials expect Chinese negotiators to visit Washington, but wouldn’t say whether a previously planned September meeting would take place.
“We continue to have conversations. We’re planning for them to come,” Mnuchin said in an interview, declining to say whether the September encounter would happen.
On Monday, in off-the-cuff remarks to reporters at the Group of Seven summit in France, Trump claimed that Chinese officials called “our top trade people” and said “let’s get back to the table.” Chinese officials weren’t able to confirm that account.