President Donald Trump threatened to raise tariffs on China again if President Xi Jinping doesn’t meet with him at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Japan.
Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that he could impose tariffs of 25%, or "much higher than 25%" on $300 billion in Chinese goods. "We’ve never gotten 10 cents from China and now we’re getting a lot of money from China," the president said.
Trump was asked in an interview with CNBC earlier in the day whether the additional tariffs would be enacted immediately if there’s no meeting at the summit later this month.
"Yes, it would," he answered. "I think he will go and I think we’re scheduled to have a meeting. I think he’ll go, and I have a great relationship with him. He’s actually an incredible guy, he’s a great man. He’s very strong, very smart, but he’s for China and I’m for the United States."
Trade talks with China hit an impasse last month after the president accused Beijing of reneging on provisions of a tentative agreement. The two countries have since escalated their trade war.
"China is going to make a deal because they’re going to have to make a deal," Trump said Monday.
On Tuesday in Beijing, a Foreign Ministry official demurred. "We have noted that the US publicly stated many times that it looks forward to arranging a meeting between the Chinese and US presidents on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. If we have this information we will release it in due time,” spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated.
China’s beaten down stocks posted their best gains in weeks on news local governments will have more room to spend on infrastructure following a government announcement. The People’s Bank of China also set a stronger-than-expecting daily reference rate for the yuan, a sign of willingness to defend it.
Trump again suggested that an eventual trade deal could involve Huawei Technologies. The Trump administration is campaigning to block the company from emerging 5G telecommunications networks around the world and has moved to cut off Huawei from U.S. suppliers, citing national security concerns.
"I do see it as a threat," he said Monday. "At the same time it could be very well that we do something with respect to Huawei as part of our trade negotiation with China. China very much wants to make a deal. They want to make a deal much more than I do, but we’ll see what happens."
When asked whether US actions against Huawei could set the US back on 5G, Trump said "No".
The US is "actually going to be leading very shortly. You know, we’re leading in everything," he said. Of China, he said, "As great as they are - and they are great - they don’t have near the capability of our geniuses in Silicon Valley that walk around in undershirts and they’re worth $2 billion."
But by consistently linking the company to trade talks, Trump has suggested his aim is to stunt China’s growth as an economic rival to the US.
"Huawei is very powerful, very strong," he said in the interview. He said that he wants China to do well, but that "I don’t want them to do as well as us."
Trump’s reversal on a threat to impose new tariffs on Mexico over migration from Central America lifted the mood at the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, over the weekend. But the US delegation left without any significant breakthrough on China. Trump is scheduled to meet both Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 leaders’ summit in Osaka.
Of the tentative meeting with Xi, Trump said, "We’re expected to meet and if we do that’s fine, and if we don’t - look, from our standpoint the best deal we can have is 25% on $600 billion."
Trump added, "If we don’t have a deal and don’t make a deal, we’ll be raising the tariffs, putting tariffs on more than - we only tax 35% to 40% of what they said then they had another 60% that’ll be taxed."
For some Chinese experts, this sounds again like a trick. "Trump wants to use maximum pressure to force China to come back to the negotiation table. And if there’s no meeting between the two leaders, Trump will put the blame on China," said Zhou Xiaoming, a former Mofcom official and diplomat.
If Trump carries out his threat to extend the 25% charge to all imports from China, it will start hitting vital communication tools and everyday consumer goods.
Trump meanwhile again hinted that part of the deal he struck with Mexico is not yet public.
He has claimed that the country agreed to purchase large amounts of US agricultural products as part of the agreement, but Mexican officials say there is no such provision. Trump said on CNBC that the US purposely isn’t discussing one of the aspects of the agreement yet, claiming that it is another "very powerful tool" for the US.
He tweeted earlier on Monday that "we have fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico, one that the US has been asking about getting for many years. It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s Legislative body!"