US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a "bigger problem" than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he "might," impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has "great chemistry" with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi "wants to negotiate", he doesn’t "know that that’s necessarily going to continue." Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that "so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case."
"They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate," Trump says, "We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us."
Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.
"I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open," Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.
Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, "but I think China meddled too."
“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China ... is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.
TRUMP on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election:— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) October 15, 2018
“They meddled. But I think China meddled too.” pic.twitter.com/4AEjYwoovq
Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see "Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II"), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.
Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.
“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China's Ambassador Cui Tiankai.
Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.
Pence's comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.
During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”
Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”
Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.
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Separately, CBS interviewer Stahl tried to get Trump to commit to not firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump refused to do so, telling her: "I don’t pledge anything. But I will tell you, I have no intention of doing that. I think it’s a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind."
Switching to other topics, during his discussion of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, Trump took credit for getting his nomination through the Senate around Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that the judge tried to sexually assault her when they were in high school.
Finally, as Bloomberg notes, the president left the door open to reviving the practice of separating migrant parents and their children at the Mexican border, something the Washington Post reported last week was under consideration within the administration: “There have to be consequences ... for coming into our country illegally,” he said, arguing that “part of the reason, I have to blame myself, the economy is so strong that everybody wants to come into the United States.”
Pressed again, he added: “You can’t say yes or no. What I can say is this: There are consequences from coming into a country, namely our country, illegally.”