[ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE] US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his administration could seal a deal on trade with China before the US presidential election, or an agreement could be reached the day after US voters go to the polls.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as he traveled from New Mexico to California, Mr Trump claimed that Beijing thinks he is going to win re-election, but that Chinese officials would prefer to deal with someone else.
He said he had told China that if the deal comes after the Nov 3, 2020 election, it would be on terms “far worse” for Beijing than it could achieve right now.
“I think there’ll be a deal maybe soon, maybe before the election, or one day after the election. And if it’s after the election, it’ll be a deal like you’ve never seen, it’ll be the greatest deal ever and China knows that,” Mr Trump said.
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“They think I’m going to win. China thinks I’m going to win so easily and they’re concerned because I told them: ‘If it’s after the election, it’s going to be far worse than what it is right now.’ I told them that. Would they like to see somebody else win? Absolutely,” Mr Trump added.
The US president’s comments come two days before US and Chinese deputy trade negotiators are due to meet in Washington for the first in-person meetings in nearly two months.
Those discussions are aimed at paving the way for expected high-level negotiations in early October that would seek a way out of a bitter 14-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
The talks will follow an easing of trade tensions last week, in which Mr Trump delayed a scheduled Oct 1 tariff increase by two weeks on US$250 billion worth of Chinese imports, while China delayed retaliatory tariffs on some US-made cancer drugs, animal feed ingredients and lubricants.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said Mr Trump was right to challenge China’s trade practices, but his approach had opened the door for China to hurt US farmers and consumers.
“I think we should have done it multilaterally, with the EU and the rest,” Ms Pelosi told CNBC. “Whatever path he wanted to take to improve a trade relationship, do not empower the other side to hurt your farmers and your consumers.”
Trade experts, executives and government officials in both countries say that the US-China trade war has hardened into a political and ideological battle that runs far deeper than tariffs and could take years to resolve.
Any agreement resulting from talks in the coming weeks is likely to be a superficial fix, they told Reuters.