President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he had to confront China over trade even if it caused short-term harm to the U.S. economy because Beijing had been cheating Washington for decades, Reuters reported.
Trump’s strongly worded comments came hours before his government announced approval of an $8 billion sale of Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a move sure to draw Beijing’s ire and further dim prospects for a quick trade deal.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence had also poked China on another sensitive topic, Hong Kong, calling on Beijing to respect the integrity of the former British colony’s laws in its response to mass protests there.
“Somebody had to take China on,” Trump told reporters during a White House visit by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, when asked about wide-ranging tariffs he has imposed on imports from China. “This is something that had to be done. The only difference is I am doing it,” he said.
“China has been ripping this country off for 25 years, for longer than that and it’s about time whether it’s good for our country or bad for our country short term. Long term it’s imperative that somebody does this,” he said.
“That the two sides have differences in issues of trade and the economy is not something to be scared of. The key is to resolve the issues through dialogue,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.
Trump’s tariffs and threats of more to come have roiled global markets and unnerved investors as the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies stretches into its second year with no end in sight.
Growing concerns that the trade war could trigger a possible U.S. recession weighed on financial markets last week and seemed to put administration officials on edge about whether the economy would hold up through the November 2020 presidential election.
Democrats on Sunday argued Trump’s trade policies were posing an acute, short-term risk. U.S. stock markets slumped last week on recession fears with all three major U.S. indexes closing down about 3% on Wednesday, although they pared their losses by Friday..