White House

Chill in China trade talks is all Biden’s fault, Trump says

Former VP has not been involved in negotiations that appear to be collapsing

President Trump is trying to blame stalling trade talks with China on former Vice President Joe Biden, seen here talking to reporters at the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 12:20 p.m. | President Donald Trump is blaming former Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates for a sudden chill in trade talks between his administration and America’s top economic rival.

Biden, who polls show is the Democratic frontrunner, has not been involved in any substantive talks about trade or any other matter since he left office in January 2017. But, according to Trump — who often takes his weaknesses and tries to blame them on his political foes — it’s all Biden’s fault.

The president has promised since he kicked off his campaign in 2015 that he would renegotiate what he dubbed America’s “bad” and “stupid” trade deals with other friends and foes, including China. But, so far, he has only struck a deal with Mexico and Canada that faces major hurdles in each of those nations’ legislative bodies.

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“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,” Trump wrote Wednesday morning.

That, the narrative-creating former reality television host wrote, would allow Beijing to “continue to ripoff the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come.”

A senior Biden campaign official, Kate Bedingfield, shot back in her own tweet hours later contending "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." She said the former vice president, if elected the 46th president, would make sure the U.S. and its allies write global trade rules.

The president’s claims come after his top negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, on Monday ripped Chinese officials for backing away from what Trump and his team hoped would be a deal ready to be signed as early as next month.

“Over the course of the last week or so we have seen ... an erosion in commitments by China,” Lighthizer told reporters, according to Reuters, adding the changes the Beijing delegation asked for would equate to a major overhaul of the deal that had been emerging.

“That, in our view, is unacceptable,” Lighthizer said.

Despite the tiff, a White House official on Tuesday told Roll Call a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He is still coming to Washington this week to continue talks that have lasted many months.

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In a second tweet, Trump wrote that China is holding out for a Democrat to defeating him in the 2020 election.

“That’s not going to happen!” he wrote.

“China has just informed us that they (Vice-Premier) are now coming to the U.S. to make a deal,” Trump wrote, yet again casting something announced the previous day as new in order to fit his own narrative. “We’ll see, but I am very happy with over $100 Billion a year in Tariffs filling U.S. coffers...great for U.S., not good for China!”

As the talks slowed over the weekend, Trump tweeted Sunday from the White House as rain kept him from his golf resort in nearby Sterling, Virginia, that he plans to swell tariffs on billions in Chinese-made goods from 10 percent to 25 percent on Friday. He also said he would slap 25 percent tariffs on goods not current subject to import fees.

Economic and trade experts say the tariffs have yet to increase prices for U.S. consumers, which could slow the economy just as Trump gears up to, in his own words, run on the health of the economy. But those same experts warn that new tariffs could finally be passed on to average Americans.

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