President Donald Trump on Wednesday hit back at the notion that he’s already given up too much in trade negotiations with China, saying that there’s been “no folding” and that real talks between the world’s two largest economies “haven’t even started yet!”
Senate Democrats and other critics have questioned the wisdom of Trump’s tweet over the weekend saying he was open to easing up on enforcement actions against Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, saying such a move could harm national security and could be too generous in the context of larger trade negotiations.
The Washington Post on Tuesday also published a column entitled, “China gave Trump a list of crazy demands, and he caved to one of them.”
But Trump said such an idea was foolish.
“The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China. Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
The president said that the U.S. “has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year” as a result of poor trade policy with China, and that American trade emissaries have already provided Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government with their list of stipulations for a potential trade deal.
“We have not seen China’s demands yet, which should be few in that previous U.S. Administrations have done so poorly in negotiating,” Trump tweeted. “China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe.”
He added, “The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!”
The president’s posts followed a Tuesday tweet in which Trump told the international community to “Stay tuned!” for developments in the dispute he ignited last month after announcing plans to hike tariffs by 25 percent on Chinese imports worth around $50 billion.
Chinese officials are in Washington this week for high-level talks designed to avoid an escalation of the trade war triggered by those tariffs.
In a move that appeared designed to alleviate tensions, Trump on Sunday tweeted that he was coordinating with China’s Xi to ease a Commerce Department ban on U.S. companies buying and selling products from ZTE, which violated sanctions on Iran and North Korea. ZTE was forced to essentially cease operations because of the ban.
“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump wrote. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”
In another tweet on Sunday, Trump emphasized the difficulty of negotiating a trade deal that would benefit both nations and was not “one sided in favor of China.” Still, the president advised his followers to “be cool, it will all work out!”
On Monday, Trump hinted that the ZTE ban was playing a greater role in the trade negotiations.
“ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies,” he tweeted. “This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin admonished Trump on Tuesday for suggesting the U.S. would help ZTE get back on its feet just weeks after the Commerce department’s harsh penalty, suggesting the president had unwittingly surrendered a crucial bargaining chip ahead of tougher trade talks.
“Trump is signaling he’s willing to give up the one piece of leverage that is actually getting the Chinese government’s attention before receiving anything concrete in return,” Rogin wrote. “That’s not only bad negotiating. It also sends the message that the United States doesn’t have the stomach for the larger economic battles with China to come.”
Senate Democrats also piled on Tuesday, questioning Trump’s campaign-trail pledge to prioritize American jobs and national security.
“Offering to trade American sanctions enforcement to promote jobs in China is plainly a bad deal for American workers and for the security of all Americans,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and nearly three dozen other Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president. “Bargaining away law enforcement power over bad actors such as ZTE undermines the historically sharp distinction between sanctions and export control enforcement and routine trade decisions made by the U.S.”