US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he was “not interested” in reopening talks on a trade deal with China before he sees how the first phase is being implemented by Beijing.
“Let’s see if they live up to the deal that they signed, okay?” Trump said during a press conference in the Rose Garden outside the White House, referring to an agreement reached earlier this year that was the most significant ceasefire in a brewing trade war.
Asked about a report in The New York Times that the White House would soon accuse Beijing of trying to steal research on vaccines for the new coronavirus, by mobilizing hackers, Trump declined to confirm.
“I am not happy with China,” Trump said, and then added cynically: “What else is new with China?”
Earlier, a key economic advisor to the president blamed Beijing for the pandemic and said China should have to pay compensation for damage caused.
“They inflicted tremendous damage on the world which is still ongoing,” Peter Navarro said on CNBC. “A bill has to come due for China … It’s not about punishing them, it’s about holding them to account.”
Navarro, once an academic and a known hawk on China, repeated the assertion later in a second interview on Fox News and insisted Washington must bring supply chains back to the US.
Increasingly, there are calls for decoupling critical aspects of manufacturing and increasing domestic production in the US.
“I strongly believe, and I think the American people strongly believe, that China inflicted trillions of dollars of damage on this country and there should be some form of compensatory damages,” he said.
Tensions between the U.S. and China have weighed heavily on businesses, worried a renewed trade war between the two largest economies could damage recovery from coronavirus, especially with the existing weaknesses caused by the shutdowns, including significant job losses.
Lawsuits have already been launched in the US against China, where the virus originated.
Despite bipartisan concerns in the US over China’s handling of the initial stages of the outbreak, Democrats have sharply criticised how Trump has handled the crisis in the U.S., which has the highest virus death toll in the world.
As elections near in November, there is no indication Trump is backing off a hard line on China.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week accused China of being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and the economic downturn and has continued to pursue a theory that the virus came from a lab, despite presenting no evidence.
The White House has said it will not renege on its debt obligations to China and has so far refrained from talking up again threats of putting new tariffs on Beijing.
Top negotiators from the U.S. and China put out a statement last week saying “good progress” was being made on creating the groundwork so the Phase One deal would be a success, in what was seen as a sign that at the working levels, efforts were underway to ensure steady trade.