WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Thursday renewed his threat to cut ties with China, a day after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress he did not see decoupling the U.S. and Chinese economies as a viable option.
“It was not Ambassador Lighthizer’s fault (yesterday in Committee) in that perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, but the U.S. certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China,” Trump said on Twitter.
The world’s two largest economies have been at loggerheads over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and China’s move to impose security legislation on Hong Kong, among multiple points of friction that have worsened this year.
Trump last month signaled a further deterioration in the relationship, saying he had no interest in speaking to President Xi Jinping right now and suggesting he could even cut ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
Lighthizer, asked about U.S.-China ties during a hearing of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, said the issue of decoupling was “a complicated one.”
“Do I think that you can sit down and decouple the United States economy from the Chinese economy?” he said. “No, I think that was a policy option years ago. I don’t think it’s a … reasonable policy option at this point.”
His office had no immediate comment on Trump’s tweet.
Lighthizer said he expected to see more supply chains moving to the United States because of tax and regulatory changes, but also noted that the U.S.-China trade deal would result in significant positive changes and increased Chinese purchases of U.S. goods and services.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Hawaii on Wednesday for a rare high-level face-to-face meeting.
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