President Trump dismisses trade tensions as 'a little squabble with China'

Hunter Walker
White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — The ramped-up trade tensions between the U.S. and China have roiled markets in recent days, but President Trump dismissed concerns and predicted victory on Tuesday when he spoke to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before embarking on a trip to Louisiana. Trump began by declaring “we’re having probably the greatest economy that we’ve had anywhere, any time in the history of our country.”

“We’re having a little squabble with China because we’ve been treated very unfairly for many, many decades. … It should have been handled a long time ago, and it wasn’t, and we’ll handle it now,” Trump said. “I think it’s going to turn out extremely well. We’re in a very strong position.”

Trump’s comments came in the wake of China announcing it would increase tariffs on American products on Monday in retaliation for a similar move from the Trump administration earlier this month. The tariff hikes from the U.S. were part of an effort to increase pressure on Beijing as Trump seeks a new trade agreement with China.

China’s retaliatory moves are expected to hurt U.S. farm exports in particular, as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., admitted Monday. The administration has proposed $27 billion in farm support payments over the last two years to offset the impact of China’s response.

The president’s efforts to craft a deal with China, which began almost as soon as he took office in 2017, stem from his deeply held belief the trade deficit between the two countries needs to be cut, a goal many economists view as pointless. The U.S. is also seeking to crack down on intellectual property theft by Chinese companies and rules that prevent American countries from fully competing and controlling their operations in China.

“We are the piggy bank that everyone likes to take advantage of or take from and we can’t let that happen any more,” Trump said on Tuesday.

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Trump went on to suggest the U.S. has greater leverage in the ongoing talks between the two countries.

“They want to make a deal. It could absolutely happen, but in the meantime, a lot of money is being made by the United States and a lot of strength is being shown,” Trump said. “This has never happened to China before. Our economy is fantastic, theirs is not so good.”

Beijing and Washington have seemed close to an agreement on multiple occasions, with officials traveling back and forth between the two countries. The latest round of negotiations ended last Friday. In response to a question from a reporter, Trump said he did not believe the talks had “collapsed.”

“We have a very good dialogue. We have a dialogue going. It will always continue, but we made a deal with China, it was a deal that was a very good deal. ... We had a deal that was very close and then they broke it. They really did,” said Trump, adding, “We can’t have that happen.”

Trump also said he was not surprised that China retaliated with its own tariff increases. While the president has insisted Beijing will bear the costs of the tariffs, most economists say they will be passed to American consumers. A reporter asked Trump about the possibility Americans could “suffer” from the tariffs, and he dismissed it. Trump indicated the increased prices for Chinese imports would encourage American manufacturers to move more of their operations here.

Photo: Keith Srakocic/AP

“You have no tariff to pay whatsoever if you’re a business. All you have to do is build or make your product in the United States. There’s no tariff whatsoever. So, that really works out very well.”

And Trump expressed no doubt that the U.S. would ultimately be victorious in any trade war with China.

“I think we’re winning it. We’re going to be collecting over $100 billion in tariffs,” Trump said. “You know what? You want to know something? Do you want to know something? We always win.”

While the president seems assured, the financial and commodity markets have shaken each time the trade war threats ramped up. And there was a slight crack in Trump’s bravado when Yahoo News asked if he is confident there won’t be a recession during his time in office.

“Well, you never can say that, but we’re doing very well,” Trump said. “I think we probably have the greatest economy that we’ve ever had.”

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