Trump Defends Administration’s Trade Strategy With China

Posted May 21, 2018 9:37 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump defended his administration’s approach to trade in a series of tweets Monday following a three-day negotiation session that ended with little clarity.

In his first Twitter post of the day, Trump questioned why Democrats and the previous administration did not “do something about Trade with China.”

“I ask Senator Chuck Schumer, why didn’t President Obama & the Democrats do something about Trade with China, including Theft of Intellectual Property etc.? They did NOTHING!" Trump wrote. "With that being said, Chuck & I have long agreed on this issue! Fair Trade, plus, with China will happen!”

The Trump administration has been in trade negotiations with China over the past week, and the two countries Saturday issued a joint statement saying that China will increase its purchase of U.S. goods and services to help close the multibillion trade imbalance. It remains unclear how much the imbalance would be reduced.

The Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said Sunday that the planned U.S. tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods would be put on hold as the trade talks continue.

“On China, Barriers and Tariffs to come down for first time,” Trump wrote in one of his Monday morning tweets.

Putting the tariffs on hold is intended to temporarily ease tensions between the two nations during the trade talks.

Trump has said he will negotiate a tough deal with China in order to protect American workers. Trade experts cautioned that this suspension of tariffs could hurt the president’s leverage in ongoing talks with China. Such talks in previous administrations have been slowed by lengthy negotiations.

Trump said Monday that China agreed to purchase “massive amounts” of U.S. agriculture products.

“China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL Farm/Agricultural Products - would be one of the best things to happen to our farmers in many years!” he wrote.

The president also warned China that it needs to be “strong and tight” on the border of North Korea while negotiations are in progress.

“The word is that recently the Border has become much more porous and more has been filtering in,” Trump wrote. “I want this to happen, and North Korea to be VERY successful, but only after signing!”

The recent talks have left unclear what the Trump administration plans to do with the Chinese telecom firm, ZTE, which has been accused of not punishing employees who violated trade controls against Iran and North Korea. The company has suffered since the United States prevented it from purchasing U.S. components. Last week, Trump said he would rethink ZTE’s punishment in exchange for trade concessions.

On Sunday, Mnuchin said the president was not “going easy” on China with regard to ZTE. He said the president wanted to be tough on the company and that the tariffs could be reinstated if the trade talks collapse. The Treasury Department is supposed to send recommendations to the White House this week regarding restrictions on Chinese investment.