President Donald Trump praised the progress U.S. and Chinese negotiators made as they work to reach a sweeping trade agreement, saying China finally respects the U.S. again.
In Friday’s Rose Garden speech that largely revolved around his emergency declaration, Trump also told reporters trade talks with China have been going “extremely well” and that the U.S. is closer than ever before to reaching a “real” trade deal.
“In China we had a negotiation going on for about two days. It’s going extremely well. Who knows what that means because it only matters if we get it done, but we’re very much working very closely with China and President Xi, who I respect a lot,” Trump said. “And we’re a lot closer than we ever were in this country with having a real trade deal. We’re covering everything.”
His comments come after U.S. and Chinese representatives concluded two days of trade talks in Beijing. The meetings included top brass from both countries: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
While no final deal has been reached, both sides claim progress was made and have agreed to meet again in Washington, D.C., later in February. The next round of talks come as a U.S.-imposed deadline is fast approaching. Trump pledged to enact another round of tariffs on Chinese goods if the two sides fail to reach an agreement by March 1.
The back-and-forth negotiations are a product of Trump’s desire to correct China’s “unfair” trade imbalance with the U.S. — something he has adamantly criticized since running for office. Not only have Chinese leaders agreed to buy more U.S. agricultural products, such soybeans and natural gas, but Trump also wants to see the communist country restructure its industrial policies. Numerous Western governments have complained China unfairly supports state-owned enterprises while abusing foreign companies that try to enter its market.
Trump — who already imposed a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods — vowed to hike the rate to 25 percent until Xi agreed to trade talks in early December 2018. That began the 90-day trade negotiation process, slated to end March 1. China’s slowing economy — which in 2018 grew at its lowest rate in nearly three decades — has pressured communist leaders to reach a deal.
“The tariffs are hurting China very badly,” Trump said. “And the relationship with China is very good. But I think they finally respect our country. They haven’t respected us for a long time — not for a long time.”