Washington: White House officials once again scampered to fire-fight a Donald Trump ‘explosion’ on China after the US President admitted in France that he had ‘second thoughts’ on the trade war with Beijing.
Asked on Sunday whether he had second thoughts about ratcheting up tariffs and threats against China that rattled global stock markets, Trump nonchalantly replied: “Yeah, sure, why not? Might as well. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything.”
Within hours, the White House jumped in to action insisting that the President’s statement had been misinterpreted and that his only regret was that he had not been more aggressive.
White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement: “His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.”
While the spokesperson’s statement underscored the president’s disdain for being seen as weak or backing down in the face of criticism, it also reflected the wavering nature of Trump’s trade confrontation with China.
But Trump said that the US was “getting along very well with China” and said that he did not expect to declare an emergency that could allow him to order American companies out of China, as he had suggested days earlier.
But behind Trump’s soft approach was the immense pressure by world leaders at the G7 summit who told him privately that the trade war is threatening the world economy
Trump later said the US and China will “very shortly” resume trade talks after a weekend of escalating tension with Beijing.
“China called last night… said let’s get back to the table. So we’ll be getting back to the table,” he said.
He calmed nerves at the G7 summit in Biarritz on Monday saying Chinese officials had made two “very, very good calls” on Sunday night and that Beijing wanted to “make a deal”.
But Trump claimed victory suggesting his pressure had brought the Chinese back to the negotiating table. “They hurt very badly, but they understand this is the right thing to do”.
On Friday Trump sharply hiked tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports in retaliation for fresh duties from Beijing.
This came after China announced retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in American goods, sending Trump into a furious tizzy.
In Paris, beneath the obligatory veneer of civility at the annual gathering of world’s leading powers, there had been tensions during the day, including over issues like trade, climate change and Iran.
But at the photo-op, the leaders were on the same stage — if not the same page.
Meanwhile, international leaders at the G7 summit have agreed to provide logistical and financial support to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest. French President Emmanuel Macron said G7 countries would release $22m.
However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Macron’s plan of an “alliance” to “save” the Amazon treated Brazil “as if we were a colony or no man’s land”.
A record number of fires is burning in Brazil, mostly in the Amazon, according to the country’s space research agency.
The funding pledge was announced as the leaders of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – continue to meet in Biarritz, France.