Trump blames China trade-talk blowup on 'very weak Democrats' and the idea he'll lose in 2020

  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday attempted to pin blame for the sudden US-China trade-talk troubles on “very weak Democrats.”
  • Trump argued that Chinese officials had reneged on earlier commitments in an attempt to delay until after the 2020 election, when they might be able to negotiate with Democrats.
  • On Sunday, Trump unexpectedly announced that the US planned to dramatically increase tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods come Friday.
  • US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday said the abrupt announcement was a response to “an erosion in commitments by China.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday attempted to pin the blame for the sudden stumble in US-China trade talks on the prospect of a Democrat retaking the White House in 2020, arguing that the Chinese would prefer to negotiate with one of his presidential competitors.

“The reason for the China pullback & attempted renegotiation of the Trade Deal is the sincere HOPE that they will be able to ‘negotiate’ with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to ripoff the United States (($US500 Billion a year)) for years to come,” Trump tweeted.

The negotiations meant to end the yearlong trade war experienced sudden, unexpected trouble Sunday when Trump tweeted a threat to increase the rate of tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. The president said the increase would take effect Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Trump also said the US planned to eventually impose 25% tariffs on $US325 billion worth of goods not previously caught up in the trade war.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed Monday that the US planned to increase the tariff rate to 25% on the $US200 billion tranche. According to the officials, the threat was a response to China’s walking back some of its earlier commitments in trade talks.

“Over the course of the last week or so, we have seen an erosion in commitments by China, I would say retreating from specific commitments that had already been made,” Lighthizer said.

In addition, Lighthizer’s office on Wednesday officially submitted the draft text to raise the tariffs come Friday – making the threat very real.

Before the sudden reversal, negotiations between the US and China seemed to be coming along nicely. A deal seemed close as the Trump administration reportedly prioritised short-term gains over long-term structural changes to the Chinese economic system.

But Trump is now accusing China of trying to stall in case a Democrat takes over the Oval Office after the 2020 election, an outcome Trump argued would result in a worse deal for the US.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign responded to the president’s insinuation, arguing that the trade war is already hurting the US.

“Instead of working with our closest allies to decisively pressure China into ending its worst trade abuses, Donald Trump has lashed out at them,” a campaign official told INSIDER in a statement. The result has been that the only people with whom Trump has gotten tough are the consumers and small businesses who are being taxed by his trade war in the form of higher prices, as well as America’s farmers, who are now suffering from escalating bankruptcies. “

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, also hit back on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, the only people @realdonaldtrump has gotten tough w/ so far on trade are US farmers, small business owners & consumers, who feel the brunt of his tariff war,” Bedingfield said. “@JoeBiden will invest in our core strengths & ensure that US & our allies write rules of the road re: China.”

Whether that is the case is unclear, but there is still some time to make a deal. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to come to Washington, DC, on Thursday for another round of negotiations.

Here’s a timeline of the US-China trade war so far:

  • March 1, 2018: President Donald Trump announces tariffs on all imports of steel and aluminium, including metals from China.
  • March 22, 2018: Trump announces plans to impose 25% tariffs on $US50 billion worth of Chinese goods.China announces tariffs in retaliation to the steel and aluminium duties and promises a response to the latest US announcement.
  • April 3, 2018: The US trade representative announces a list of Chinese goods subject to the tariffs. There is a mandatory 60-day comment period for industries to ask for exemptions from the tariffs.
  • April 4, 2018: China rolls out a list of more than 100 US goods worth roughly $US50 billion that are subject to retaliatory tariffs.
  • May 21, 2018: After a meeting, the two countries announce the outline of a trade deal to avoid the tariffs.
  • May 29, 2018: The White House announces that the tariffs on $US50 billion worth of Chinese goods will move forward, with the final list of goods released June 15. The move appears to wreck the nascent trade deal.
  • June 15, 2018: Trump rolls out the final list of goods subject to new tariffs. Chinese imports worth $US34 billion would be subject to the new 25% tariff rate as of July 6, with another $US16 billion worth of imports subject to the tariff at a later date. China retaliates with an equivalent set of tariffs.
  • June 18, 2018: Trump threatens 10% tariffs on another $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
  • July 6, 2018: The first tranche of tariffs on $US34 billion worth of Chinese goods takes effect; China responds in kind.
  • July 10, 2018: The US releases an initial list of an additional $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods that could be subject to 10% tariffs.
  • August 1, 2018: Washington more than doubles the value of its tariff threats against Beijing, announcing plans to increase the size of proposed duties on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%.
  • August 3, 2018: China says it will impose tariffs of various rates on another $US60 billion worth of US goods if Trump moves forward with his latest threat.
  • August 7, 2018: The US announces that the second tranche of tariffs, which would hit $US16 billion worth of Chinese goods, will take effect August 23.
  • August 23, 2018: The US imposes tariffs on another $US16 billion worth of Chinese goods, and Beijing responds with tariffs on $US16 billion worth of US goods.
  • September 7, 2018: Trump says the tranche of tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods is coming “soon” and threatens to impose tariffs on another $US267 billion worth of Chinese goods.
  • September 17, 2018:The US imposes tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and the tariff rate is scheduled to increase to 25% from 10% on January 1.
  • December 1, 2018: Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping sit down at the G20 summit in Argentina, where the two leaders hash out a trade truce, delaying the escalation of US tariffs until March 1.
  • December 4, 2018: Despite the truce,Trump tweets that he is still a “Tariff Man” and says a deal will get done only if it is in the best interest of the US.
  • February 24: After a series of negotiations, Trump announces that US tariffs will not increase on March 1. He delays the increase indefinitely.
  • May 5: After apparent progress in talks,Trump suddenly threatens to raise tariffs to 25% within the week and threatens new tariffs on another $US325 billion of Chinese goods.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.