Trump warns China may delay trade agreement to after US election
President Donald Trump has warned that China may not strike an agreement to end the more than year-long trade war between the two economic powers until after the US presidential election in November 2020.
“I think that China will probably say, ‘let’s wait’,” Mr Trump said on Friday, as his negotiators prepared to fly to China for the first trade talks since he reached a truce with Xi Jinping, Chinese president, at last month’s G20 in Osaka.
“When I win, like almost immediately, they’re all going to sign deals,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office.
The US president spoke as Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, prepared to restart talks with Liu He, the top Chinese trade negotiator, in Shanghai on July 30.
The Trump administration is attempting to resurrect trade talks that collapsed in May after Washington accused Beijing of reneging on a deal that had been agreed in principle — a claim that the Chinese government has rejected.
Mr Trump and Mr Xi paved the way for resurrecting the talks when they met at the G20 in late June and reached a truce in which the US president agreed to hold off on imposing further tariffs on imports from China. Mr Trump also signalled that his administration would adopt a softer stance on Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications group that US intelligence agencies worry could help China engage in cyber espionage.
When negotiations between the two countries previously faltered, Mr Trump claimed that China would rather deal with Joe Biden, the former vice-president who leads the opinion polls for the Democratic presidential nomination. But his comments on Friday appeared to set a pessimistic tone ahead of the negotiations in Shanghai next week, which US farmers and companies hope will end the trade war that began in March 2018.
“China has to be looking at the prospects of negotiating with President Trump and asking itself, what’s the point?,” said Chad Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Even anything that might be agreed now is extremely likely to be a short-term fix, given how trigger happy he has shown to be on tariffs.”
Mr Trump spoke after the release of a poll by Fox News, the conservative television network, that showed that Mr Biden would beat the president by 10 percentage points in a general election matchup. Earlier on Friday, he slammed the network, saying they were not the “proud warriors” they had been in 2016.
“New Fox Polls, which have always been terrible to me (they had me losing BIG to Crooked Hillary), have me down to Sleepy Joe,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, invoking one of his nicknames for Mr Biden.
US companies have urged Mr Trump to end the trade war, which has resulted in higher retail prices for consumers, and has hurt American farmers because of retaliatory tariffs from China. The Trump administration this week unveiled a $16bn package of subsidies aimed at helping farmers across the country.
Earlier this week, the IMF said it had become more pessimistic over the past three months about the global economy. In an update to its World Economic Outlook, the fund cited the prospect of a further escalating in the US-China trade war as a reason for downgrading its forecast for 2019 global growth to 3.2 per cent.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi