Hours after leaving Beijing, President Donald Trump on Friday delivered what appeared to be a sharp rebuke to China, railing against trade practices he says have put Americans out of work and warning that the U.S. would no longer “turn a blind eye” to trade abuses.
“From this day forward we will compete on a fair and equal basis,” Trump told a gathering of CEOs on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam. “We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore. I am always going to put America first.”
It was a striking change of tone from the day before, when Trump had set aside his previous blistering rhetoric in favor of friendly overtures to China as he sought to establish a more balanced trade relationship.
But on Friday, Trump was back to blunt. He told the executives gathered in the coastal city of Danang that he was happy to enter into bilateral trading agreements — but only if they are reciprocal and fair.
Without singling out China by name, Trump argued the U.S. had adhered to World Trade Organization principles, only to be taken advantage of by counties that had ignored the rules and engaged in harmful practices such as product dumping, currency manipulation and government subsidizing of goods.
“Such practices, along with our collective failure to respond to them, hurt many people in our country,” Trump said, describing “jobs, factories and industries” he said were “stripped out of the United States and out of many countries” as a result.
“We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and we will not tolerate them,” he said.
In the speech, Trump said he had spoken “openly and directly” with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit about “about China’s unfair trade practices and the enormous trade deficits they have produced with the United States.”
Trump said China’s trade surplus, which stood at $223 billion for the first 10 months of the year, was unacceptable, and repeated his language from Thursday when he said he did “not blame China” or any other country “for taking advantage of the United States on trade.”
But Trump went on to say that the U.S. would “no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating or economic aggression.”
Shortly before Trump landed in Vietnam, the White House announced that he will not have a formal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, addressing reporters aboard Air Force One, blamed scheduling conflicts on both sides, but said it was possible the leaders could have a less formal encounter in Danang or at a later regional conference in the Philippines.
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The Associated Press