WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump injected on Friday more uncertainty into efforts to reach a potential trade deal with China, saying that a planned September round of negotiations between the world’s two biggest economic powers may not take place.
“We’ll see whether or not we keep our meeting in September. If we do, that’s fine. If we don’t, that’s fine,” Trump told reporters at the White House before heading to a fundraising event on New York’s Long Island.
Without that meeting, the Trump administration is seen as likely to deliver on a threat – announced on Aug. 1 – to impose a new 10 percent tariff of $300 billion worth of Chinese imports not already subject to levies.
Those new tariffs, due to take effect on Sept. 1, are in addition to 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports that began to be imposed in July of last year.
“We’re talking with China. We’re not ready to make a deal, but we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
In the immediate aftermath of the Trump administration’s latest tariff threat, China’s currency sank to its lowest level versus the dollar since the financial crisis in 2008.
The US accused China of manipulating its currency to give it an unfair advantage in international trade, but Beijing said the yuan plunged due purely to market forces.
A spat over Chinese technology company Huawei, which the Trump administration says could be using its telecommunications gear to carry out espionage for Beijing, also has strained bilateral trade relations.
Washington, citing national security concerns, in May barred companies from selling US-origin technology to Huawei – the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications gear – without US government approval.
However, the Trump administration partially – and temporarily – lifted that restriction a month later amid a larger trade truce with China that was agreed to at a summit in Osaka, Japan.
The major US stock market indices fell in response to Trump’s latest remarks on Friday, with the Dow 30 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq down 0.13 percent and 0.75 percent, respectively, in late-session trading.
Trade tensions between Washington and Beijing are rooted in Washington’s unhappiness over China’s massive trade surpluses with the US.
In 2018, the US posted a trade deficit of $419 billion with China due, largely, to the fact that American exports to Asia’s largest economy totaled just $120 billion, while US imports from China reached $540 billion.
During the first five months of 2019, the US trade deficit with China was $137 billion.