Donald Trump hints at willingness to walk away from China trade deal

Jodi Xu Klein

US President Donald Trump has hinted once again at his willingness to walk away from the phase one trade deal that the US struck with China in January, as he comes under increasing pressure to take a harder stance on Beijing.

Trump said in a tweet targeting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Monday: “Nobody in 50 years has been WEAKER on China than Sleepy Joe Biden. He was asleep at the wheel. He gave them EVERYTHING they wanted, including rip-off Trade Deals. I am getting it all back!”

Monday’s tweet was the latest indication that the phase one trade deal could be in jeopardy, as pressure increases in Washington to punish China for the coronavirus pandemic, which was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. The outbreak has now claimed nearly 100,000 American lives.

US lawmakers are also outraged by last week’s announcement by Beijing of a new national security law for Hong Kong, possibly the harshest move China has taken to increase political control over the semi-autonomous city since the British handover in 1997, threatening Hong Kong’s rule of law and its independence.

Trump two weeks ago said he had ruled out any renegotiation of the trade deal, arguing that Chinese negotiators would only want any changes to benefit their side.

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The change of tone on the trade deal began earlier this month when Trump, during a virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, threatened for the first time to terminate the phase one trade deal if China failed to fulfil its promise to buy US$200 billion more in American goods and services.

China has significantly stepped up purchases of agricultural products, but purchases in other sectors still fell short of expectations.

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