Trump regrets not raising tariffs on China higher, White House says
* Trump expresses regret over latest trade salvo at China
* White House says regret is that he did not raise tariffs
* Trump says he is not planning to demand firms leave China
(Recasts first paragraph; edits throughout)
By Jeff Mason
BIARRITZ, France, Aug 25 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump
wishes he had raised tariffs on Chinese goods even higher last
week, the White House said on Sunday, even as Trump signaled he
did not plan to follow through with a demand that U.S. firms
find ways to close operations in China.
Trump raised eyebrows on the sidelines of a G7 summit when
he responded in the affirmative to questions from reporters on
whether he had any second thoughts about raising tariffs on
Chinese goods by 5%.
"President Trump responded in the affirmative - because he
regrets not raising the tariffs higher," White House spokeswoman
Stephanie Grisham said in a statement afterward that sought to
clarify the president's remarks.
Trump announced the additional duty on some $550 billion in
targeted Chinese goods on Friday, hours after China unveiled
retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods.
The move was the latest round in a tit-for-tat trade war
between the world's two largest economies that has damaged
global growth, upset allies, and raised market fears that the
world economy will tip into a recession.
It came just hours after Trump said he was ordering U.S.
companies to find "alternatives" to China, including closing
operations there and moving production to the United States.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump could
order companies out of China under the International Emergency
Economic Powers Act if he declared a national
Trump indicated on Sunday that he was not planning such a
step at this time, however.
"I could declare a national emergency. I think when they
steal and take out, and -- intellectual property theft, anywhere
from $300 billion to $500 billion a year, and where we have a
total loss of almost a trillion dollars a year ... in many ways,
that's an emergency," he said.
"I have no plan right now. Actually, we're getting along
very well with China right now. We're talking," Trump said.
Mnuchin said the president did want U.S. businesses to start
looking to shift investments away from China, saying they would
be better off in the event the U.S.-China trade war lasted for a
"We want them to be in places where they're trading partners
that respect us and trade with us fairly," he said on the "Fox
News Sunday" program.
'SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT EVERYTHING'
During his meeting with Johnson on Sunday in France, Trump
was asked if he had second thoughts about his latest escalation.
"Yeah, sure. Why not?" he said.
The reporter repeated the question and Trump replied: "Might
as well. Might as well."
A second reporter followed up again, asking if he had second
thoughts about escalating the trade war with China.
"I have second thoughts about everything," Trump responded.
Asked to clarify Trump's remarks, Mnuchin, who is one of the
lead U.S. negotiators in trade talks with Beijing, said Trump
remained resolute in trying to force concessions from China.
Another top official said he did not think Beijing would
retaliate for the latest increase in tariffs.
"I think his was an action to respond to their action. So I
doubt whether they're going to take another step," White House
economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CBS' "Face the Nation"
program. "We'll have to wait and see."
Mnuchin said Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were now
"enemies" on trade, despite an otherwise good relationship.
"President Xi is still his friend," he said. "But as it
relates to financial issues and trade, we have become enemies.
We're not making progress."
(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Biarritz; Additional reporting by
David Morgan and Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Toby
Chopra, Tim Ahmann and Sonya Hepinstall)
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