Trump Signals Hong Kong Law Complicates China Trade Talks

Mario Parker

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump suggested legislation he signed that expresses U.S. support for Hong Kong protesters complicates his efforts to reach a trade deal with China.

Asked on Monday if the measure makes it harder to reach a trade pact, Trump told reporters at the White House: “It doesn’t make it better, but we’ll see what happens.”

“The Chinese are always negotiating,” he said. “I’m very happy where we are.”

The measure, which Trump signed on Nov. 27, prompted China to suspend further Hong Kong port visits by U.S. Navy ships. While China has promised retaliation since it became clear that U.S. lawmakers intended to pass the legislation, President Xi Jinping has limited options for hitting back exacerbating his own economic slowdown at home.

The new law requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law, as well as sanctions against any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. A second Hong Kong measure also bans the export of crowd-control items such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s police.

While signing the bills, Trump signaled that he didn’t want the broader relationship with China to veer off track. He expressed concerns with unspecified portions of the new law, saying they risked interfering with his constitutional authority to carry out American foreign policy.

Trump said on Nov. 26 the two sides were in the “final throes” of a deal that would start to unwind tariffs on about $500 billion in products traded between them.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mario Parker in Washington at mparker22@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Joshua Gallu

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