By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday offered a pessimistic view on reaching a trade deal with China, saying Beijing may not sign one before the November 2020 election in hopes a Democrat who will be easier to deal with, will win.
During a wide-ranging session with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said China is using stalling tactics and he doubted a trade deal will be reached any time soon, with lead negotiators for the two countries to meet in Shanghai next week.
Trump has been tough on Chinese trade practices throughout his presidency and has levied billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese imports and threatened another $325 billion if no progress is reached.
China levied tariffs of its own against U.S. products and together the two countries have disrupted global supply chains and shaken financial markets in their dispute over how China does business with the rest of the world.
Trump said China may be delaying a deal in a bid to wait him out in the hope a Democrat wins in November 2020.
“I think that China will probably say ‘let’s wait,'” he said. “‘Let’s see if one of these people who gives the United States away, let’s see if one of them could get elected.'”
He said the Chinese leadership is probably thinking, “Maybe we can deal with another dope or another stiff” instead of him.
The White House said on Wednesday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for talks in Shanghai starting on July 30.
It would be their first face-to-face meeting since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to revive talks to end their yearlong trade war.
Talks collapsed in May after China reneged on promises made in earlier negotiations, U.S. government and private-sector sources said at the time.
“I don’t know if they’re going to make a deal,” Trump said of his negotiators. “Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.”
He said he did not really care, because the United States is taking in billions in tariffs.
While Trump insists the tariffs are beneficial to U.S. Treasury coffers, in reality the costs are passed on to U.S. companies and consumers.
“We haven’t even taxed China yet compared to what I can do,” he said. “We have tens of billions of dollars rolling in from China,” he said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said he does not expect a grand deal from next week’s trade talks with China but U.S. negotiators hoped to reset the stage for further productive talks on reducing trade barriers.
“They’re going to meet next week in Shanghai,” Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC. “I wouldn’t expect any grand deal. I think, talking to our negotiators, they’re going to kind of reset the stage and hopefully go back to where the talks left off last May.”
“We were doing well. No deal yet, but still on the structural issues, regarding IP (intellectual property) theft, forced transfer of technology, cyber interference, trade and non-trade, tariff barriers and so forth, certainly the enforcement mechanisms,” Kudlow added. “But if we were 90 percent there with 10 percent to go … I think our negotiators want to go back to that spot.”
Kudlow said the United States strongly expected China to make goodwill purchases of U.S. agricultural products.