China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017.
Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump on Friday said that a long-negotiated trade deal with China is “potentially very close” following reports that an agreement might not be reached until next year.
Trump was speaking on one of his favorite television programs, “Fox and Friends,” the morning after House Democrats wrapped up a second week of public impeachment hearings.
“The bottom line is, we have a very good chance to make a deal,” Trump said.
But while both sides say they want to work out an agreement, Trump told Fox he is “not anxious” to hash one out, claiming that the U.S. benefits from tariffs on Chinese imports.
The so-called phase one deal with China has yet to be completed, even though Trump announced that the two economic superpowers had come to a “very substantial phase one deal” more than a month earlier.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday that Beijing wants a deal “on the basis of mutual respect and equality.”
Trump shot back on Fox that “I didn’t like his word ‘equality,'” adding “this can’t be like an even deal.”
A deal between Beijing and Washington could lead to a roll back of tariffs. The next round of U.S. duties on Chinese imports is set to kick in Dec. 15.
Trump also claimed in the nearly hour-long television interview that “thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong” if not for him, because Chinese President Xi Jinping would not want to ruin the ongoing trade talks. “If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump claimed.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been fighting for greater autonomy from mainland China for months, holding large-scale demonstrations that have seen an increasingly violent crackdown by Beijing’s police forces in recent weeks.
When asked if he planned to sign a bill from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., supporting the Hong Kong protesters, Trump said, “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., scolded Trump’s equivocal stance on the bill.
“Make no mistake: President Trump’s words today do not reflect what the American people or the Congress think about President Xi’s oppressive policies toward the people of Hong Kong,” Schumer said in a statement later Friday. “For a guy who promised to be tough on China, President Trump’s reliable deference to President Xi is all the more bewildering. Being tough on China when it comes to human rights will also help us win the battle on trade.”