WH:Trump Regrets Not Taxing China More 08/25 10:21
Pushed to end a trade war with China, President Donald Trump instead upped
his pressure on Beijing, saying through a spokeswoman Sunday that his only
regret in hiking tariffs is that he didn't raise them higher.
BIARRITZ, France (AP) -- Pushed to end a trade war with China, President
Donald Trump instead upped his pressure on Beijing, saying through a
spokeswoman Sunday that his only regret in hiking tariffs is that he didn't
raise them higher.
Just hours earlier, Trump had admitted to having "second thoughts" over a
trade dispute that has weighed down the global economy, a top agenda item at a
summit in France of the world's wealthiest economies.
Trump faced a tense reception from his counterparts as they gathered at the
annual Group of Seven summit.
Trump suggested during a breakfast meeting with British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson that he harbored qualms about the spiraling conflict. "Yeah. For sure,"
he told reporters when asked if he had any second thoughts about ramping up
tariffs on China after Beijing imposed new tariffs to retaliate against earlier
tariff moves by the U.S.
But hours later, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a
statement saying the news media had "greatly misinterpreted" Trump's response.
Grisham said the president only responded "in the affirmative - because he
regrets not raising the tariffs higher."
The comments appeared at first to mark a rare moment of self-reflection by
the famously hardnosed leader, and the later reversal fit a pattern of Trump
recoiling from statements he believes suggest weakness.
Asked if he had any second thoughts about escalating the U.S. trade war with
China, Trump replied: "Yeah, sure. Why not?"
When the reporter sought clarification by asking "second thoughts?" Trump
said: "Might as well, might as well."
Trump then said: "I have second thoughts about everything" when another
reporter repeated the original question.
Trump had been trying to use the summit to rally the other leaders to do
more to stimulate their economies, as fears rise of a potential slowdown in the
U.S. before he stands for reelection in November 2020.
His summit counterparts are trying to convince him to back off the trade
conflicts with China and other countries, seeing the disputes as contributing
to the overall economic weakening.
They also are pushing to resolve a standoff between the U.S. and Iran over
Tehran's nuclear program and other activities in the Middle East. Evidence of
that conflict surfaced when a top Iranian official paid an unannounced visit
Sunday to the G-7 summit. The Iranian official was invited by France. It was
unclear if the Iranians would have any talks with the American delegation.
The summit began days after Trump responded to China's announcement Friday
that it would slap new tariffs on $75 billion in American goods with more
tariffs of his own. Trump also issued an extraordinary threat to declare a
national emergency in an attempt to force U.S. businesses to cut ties with
Johnson, who praised Trump for America's economic performance, also chided
the U.S. leader for his unbending China policy.
"Just to register a faint sheep-like note of our view on the trade war," he
told Trump. "We're in favor of trade peace."
Trump said he had "no plans right now" to follow through on his emergency
declaration threat, but insisted he would be within his rights to use a 1977
law designed to target rogue regimes, terrorists and drug traffickers as the
newest weapon in the clash between the world's two largest economies
"If I want, I could declare a national emergency," Trump said. He cited
China's theft of intellectual property and the large U.S. trade deficit with
China, saying "in many ways that's an emergency."
Trump then entered the first official summit meeting, initially set as a
discussion of foreign policy and security issues. But White House aides claimed
he engineered a late change to the summit schedule, adding economic issues to
White House officials said Trump planned to press leaders to do more to spur
economic growth, as well as to open European, Japanese and Canadian markets to
American manufacturers and producers. Trump has imposed or threatened to impose
tariffs on all three markets in his pursuit of free, fair and reciprocal trade.
The meeting of the Group of Seven nations --- Britain, Canada, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. --- in the beach resort town of Biarritz
comes at one of the most unpredictable moments in Trump's presidency, when his
public comments and decision-making increasingly have seemed erratic and
acerbic of late.
Only hours before his arrival in Biarritz Saturday, Trump reissued his
threat to place tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S. in a spat over
France's digital services tax; the European Union promised to retaliate. That
was the backdrop for an impromptu two-hour lunch with French President Emmanuel
Macron outside the opulent Hotel du Palais.
Trump on Sunday disputed reports of friction with other G-7 leaders, saying
he has been "treated beautifully" since he arrived.
But cracks emerged moments later after the French government said the
leaders had agreed at Saturday's dinner that Macron would deliver a message to
Iran on behalf of the group. Trump disputed that he had signed off on any such
message. "No, I haven't discussed that," he told reporters during a bilateral
meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "No, I haven't."
Macron, in recent months, has tried to play intermediary between the U.S.
and Iran, as tensions flare over Iran's nuclear program and the Trump
administration's increasingly restrictive sanctions on that country.
The annual G-7 summit has historically been used to highlight common ground
among the world's leading democracies. But in a bid to work around Trump's
impulsiveness, Macron decided to break from tradition and not issue a formal
joint statement at the end of the summit.