President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sign the ‘phase one’ trade agreement at the White House on Jan. 15. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – President Trump on Monday night stressed that the “phase one” trade deal with China remains in place, hours after a comment by White House trade advisor Peter Navarro to the effect that it was “over” sparked a drop in U.S. stock futures.
“The China Trade Deal is fully intact,” the president tweeted. “Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement!”
Navarro also walked back his earlier comments, saying they had been “taken wildly out of context.”
“They had nothing at all to do with the Phase I trade deal, which continues in place,” he said in a brief statement. “I was simply speaking to the lack of trust we now have of the Chinese Communist Party after they lied about the origins of the China virus and foisted a pandemic upon the world.”
U.S. Dow futures, which according to CNBC had dropped some 400 points after Navarro’s earlier remarks made headlines, recovered after his statement.
In a Fox News interview, Navarro named some of the administration’s biggest concerns about the CCP’s behavior, listing the mass incarceration of Muslim Uighurs, suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, belligerence in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, and election meddling.
He and host Martha MacCallum discussed some of the claims in former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book regarding the president’s dealings with China, as well as Trump’s acknowledgment, in an interview with Axios, that he had held off imposing sanctions against CCP officials implicated in Uighur atrocities, because it could have jeopardized the trade deal negotiations.
MacCallum then asked, “Do you think that the president sort of – I mean, he obviously really wanted to hang onto this trade deal as much as possible. And he wanted them to make good on the promises, because there had been progress made on that trade deal. But given everything that’s happened and all the things you just listed, is that over?”
“It’s over,” replied Navarro. “Yes.”
He attributed the breakdown to China’s lack of transparency about the coronavirus epidemic that emerged in Wuhan late last year, saying it was only after the Chinese delegation that visited the White House in mid-January to sign the trade deal had left that the U.S. began to learn the extent of the outbreak.
“Here’s, I think, the turning point. They came here on January 15 to sign that trade deal, and that was a full two months after they knew the virus was out and about. It was at a time when they had already sent hundreds of thousands of people to this country to spread that virus, and it was just minutes after wheels-up when that plane took off that we began to hear about this pandemic.”
Navarro, author of several books examining Chinese policies and behavior, has been outspokenly critical of Beijing in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.
“China created this pandemic,” he told CNN on Sunday. “They hid the virus. They created that virus. And they sent over hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens here to spread that around, and around the world.”
“Whether they did that on purpose, that’s an open question,” Navarro added.
The “phase one” trade deal signed on January 15 suspended and reduced some U.S. tariffs on China, although tariffs on some $250 billion in Chinese imports were left in place for the meantime, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating they could be rolled back as part of a “phase two” negotiation.
China in return pledged to buy more U.S. goods and services, worth at least $200 billion, over the next two years, and to address U.S. concerns relating to intellectual property protections.
Last month some Chinese state media outlets reported that Beijing was keen to reopen negotiations on the U.S.-China trade deal, in order to get more beneficial terms for China.
The CCP-affiliated Global Times ascribed the desire to reopen negotiations to what it described as “a tsunami of anger among Chinese trade insiders” over U.S. criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Asked at the time whether he would be interested in reopening the negotiations, Trump told reporters at the White House, “Not even a little bit. No. I’m not interested.”
“Let’s see if they live up to the deal that they signed,” he said.
He took the opportunity to criticize predecessors’ handling of trade with China.
“China’s been taking advantage of the United States for many, many years, for decades, because we had people at this position – right here where I’m standing, sitting right in that office, the Oval Office – that allowed that to happen,” he said.