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Trump Appears to Soften on China, but White House Says He Didn’t

President Trump said at the G7 summit that he had “second thoughts” about escalating the trade war with China. Follow our live updates.

8/25/2019 4:00:00 PM

President Trump said at the G7 summit that he had “second thoughts” about escalating the trade war with China. Follow our live updates.

President Trump, at the G7 meeting in Biarritz , France, once again caught off guard allies who disagree with him on trade tariffs, global warming, Russia and China.

ImageAsked on Sunday whether he was having second thoughts about his aggressive posture with China, President Trump said, “Yeah, sure, why not?”CreditErin Schaff/The New York TimesTrump admitted ‘second thoughts’ on China. His spokeswoman says he was misinterpreted.

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Less than five hours after President Trump appeared to waver in his threats to escalate a trade war with China, the White House insisted that the president had done no such thing and that his only regret was that he had not been more aggressive.Speaking to reporters earlier Sunday morning, Mr. Trump was asked if he had second thoughts about ratcheting up tariffs and threats against China last week, in moves that rattled global stock markets.

“Yeah, sure, why not?” Mr. Trump replied. “Might as well. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything.”Mr. Trump added that “We’re getting along very well with China” and said that he did not expect to declare an emergency that could allow him to order American companies out of China, as he had suggested days earlier.

But just hours later on Sunday, after Mr. Trump’s comments generated headlines saying he was taking a softer tone toward China, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said, “His answer has been greatly misinterpreted.”“President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” she said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Her statement underscored the president’s disdain for being seen as weak or backing down in the face of criticism. But it also reflected the back-and-forth nature of Mr. Trump’s trade confrontation with China, which has shifted between negotiations, threats conveyed over Twitter, and a series of escalating tariffs.

Last week, after China announced retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in American goods, Mr. Trump reacted furiously. In a series of tweets, he condemned China’s intransigence and vowed to impose even higher tariffs on a broader set of Chinese products.

It seemed on Sunday morning that his attitude had shifted — until Ms. Grisham said it had not, at least for now.ImageMr. Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain walking to a working breakfast on Sunday.CreditErin Schaff/The New York TimesJohnson, praised by Trump as ‘the right man’ for Brexit, has a tricky balance to strike.

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President Trump on Sunday called the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, “the right man” to deliver Brexit, and talked up prospects of supporting the project by striking with Britain a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had.”The comments followed a breakfast between the two leaders and their advisers, their first face-to-face meeting since Mr. Johnson became prime minister last month.

Mr. Johnson has said he wants to negotiate a deal with the European Union by Oct. 31, when Britain is scheduled to withdraw, but he has also promised to deliver Brexit on that date,with or without an agreement.He and European leaders have said they are pessimistic about the chances of reaching a pact by then, but he gave a somewhat more hopeful assessment on Sunday. “I think it’s going to be touch and go,” he told the BBC.

Mr. Johnson is trying tostrike a tricky balancebetween the bloc and Mr. Trump, a Brexit supporter and critic of European Union trade policies. The prime minister needs a favorable trade agreement with the United States to cushion economic losses from loosening ties to the European Union, Britain’s biggest trade partner.

What such a deal would achieve, or when, remains anyone’s guess. And Sunday’s encounter with Mr. Trump, who is unpopular with many Britons, illustrated that, for domestic political reasons, Mr. Johnson has to tread carefully.British critics fear that a trade deal with the U.S. could harm the National Health Service by forcing it to pay more for pharmaceuticals, and allow the import of food held to lower standards than in Europe.

Mr. Johnson said that he had explained these objections to the president, and suggested that there would be “tough talks ahead.”The prime minister also met in Biarritz with Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, to discuss Brexit.Ahead of the gathering, Mr. Tusk said, “I still hope that Prime Minister Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr. No Deal.”

ImageMr. Trump during a bilateral meeting on Sunday in Biarritz, France, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.CreditErin Schaff/The New York TimesTrump predicted good news on trade with Japan.President Trump teased a breakthrough in talks with Japan on Sunday morning, saying that the United States was “very close” to a major trade deal.

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“We’re working on a very big deal with Japan and we’re very close to getting it,” he told reporters. “It will be one of the biggest deals we’ve ever made with Japan.”He offered no further details, though reports in Japan suggested that negotiators had reached agreement on a plan that would avoid Mr. Trump’s threats to increase tariffs on Japanese autos.

Later, at the start of a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Mr. Trump referred again to a trade pact, and suggested that he and Mr. Abe could make enough progress in their discussions to finalize the arrangement.“We’ll possibly know by the end of this meeting,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump credited his own relationship with Mr. Abe for the emerging deal.“As you know,” he said, “Prime Minister Abe and I are very good friends, really good friends.”ImageA pro-Russian rally in Yevpatoriya, Crimea, shortly before Crimea was annexed by Russia in March 2014.

CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York TimesTrump still wants to let Russia back into the club, and Europe still says ‘No.’Mr. Trump has once again ruffled feathers in Brussels and beyond, by suggesting that Russia be invited back into what used to be known as the Group of 8.

Russia was suspended in 2014 after it seized Crimea from Ukraine and supported militias trying to break parts of eastern Ukraine away from the country.Mr. Trump said last week that he thought bringing Moscow back into the fold would be “appropriate,” drawing quick rebuffs from European members France, Germany and Britain.

Administration officials downplayed the issue, noting that Russia had not asked to rejoin the club. But on Sunday, Mr. Trump said the United States, as the host of next year’s meeting, might invite Russia to participate.At last year’s G7 meeting, the president said Russia should be invited back, and even stated that its annexation of Ukraine was partly justified — a position roundly rejected by major allies of the United States.

“Under no condition can we agree with this logic,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council,said on Saturday.“The reasons why Russia was disinvited in 2014 are still valid.”When Russia was admitted to the group in the late 1990s, “it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights,” Mr. Tusk said. “Is there anyone among us who can say with full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?”

European Union officials have noted that there are other international forums for Russia, like the Group of 20, that include countries like China and Saudi Arabia that are not democracies.ImageA port in Shanghai. Mr. Trump has imposed a series of tariffs on Chinese goods.

CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York TimesWith recession fears looming, Trump wants to talk about trade, not climate and inequality.Amid fears of an impending recession that could jeopardize his re-election next year, President Trump’s focus at the G7 meeting will be economic, with particular attention on his clash with China.

But this weekend, Mr. Trump’s advisers have accused President Emmanuel Macron of France, the host of the meeting, of focusing too much onlike global warming and inequality, rather than economic growth.They also complained abouta tax France recently imposed

on tech giants like Facebook and Google.Mr. Trump, who has waged an escalating trade war with Beijing, has talked about cutting off trade with China andforcing American companies to stop operating there— extraordinary threats that have sent shock waves through world markets.

In briefing reporters before his trip, senior administration officials cited barriers to trade and foreign investment, and “currency stability” as being among the concerns he will raise at the summit meeting — concerns that, for Mr. Trump, inevitably lead back to China.

The administration officials specifically cited China’s industrial subsidies, direct government involvement in directing businesses, rules requiring companies to surrender technological secrets in order to enter the Chinese market, and intellectual property theft

They also cited reform of the World Trade Organization, a recent target of the president’s ire. In particular, he has criticized its trade rules that favor developing countries, which include China, though it now has the world’s second-largest economy.

ImageMr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in June.CreditErin Schaff/The New York TimesTalk of solidarity on North Korea could not disguise differences between Trump and Abe.Sometimes disagreements cannot be cloaked by diplomatic happy-speak.

That was the case when Mr. Trump and Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, speaking to reporters on Sunday, had very different reactions to the fact that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, continues to test short-range missiles.Mr. Trump shrugged it off.

“I’m not happy about it. But again, he’s not in violation of an agreement,” the president said, adding that he and Mr. Kim had not talked about such weapons.“I discussed long-range ballistic and that he cannot do,” Mr. Trump said. “And he hasn’t been doing it and he hasn’t been doing nuclear testing. He has done short-range, much more standard missiles. A lot of people are testing those missiles, not just him.”

Mr. Trump was clearly focused on whether the North Korean leader had violated agreements between the two of them. But when Mr. Trump asked Mr. Abe to offer his own thoughts, Mr. Abe focused instead on limits set by the United Nations.“Our position is very clear that the launch of short-range ballistic missiles by North Korea clearly violates the relevant U.N. Security Council resolution,” Mr. Abe said through a translator. “So in that sense, it was extremely regrettable for us to experience another round of the launch of the short-range ballistic missiles by North Korea in recent days.”

But Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe both seemed determined to show that they were allied on the matter.“I can understand how the prime minister of Japan feels,” Mr. Trump said.Mr. Abe said, “I like to make sure that we — meaning myself and President Trump — will always stay on the same page when it comes to North Korea.”

ImagePresident Emmanuel Macron of France, the host of this year’s meeting, had a one-on-one lunch with Mr. Trump on Saturday.CreditErin Schaff/The New York TimesWary after last year’s breakdown, organizers hope to avoid another Trump outburst.After President Trump’s angry, protocol-breaking treatment of the last G7 summit meeting, the organizers this time have tried to take fewer chances.

At the June 2018 meeting in Canada, Mr. Trumpin assailing trade agreements, defending protectionist tariffs and arguing that Russia, which was expelled from the group after seizing territory from Ukraine in 2014, should be allowed back in.Mr. Trump left that meeting early, and

refused to sign a final communiquéwhen it made reference to the “rules-based international order.” Aboard his plane, he criticized the host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for comments at the closing news conference, calling him “meek and mild” and “dishonest and weak.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France, the host of this year’s meeting in Biarritz, who had a one-on-one lunch with Mr. Trump on Saturday, decided early on that there would be no final communiqué.“No one reads the communiqués,” which are drafted in advance, Mr. Macron told reporters last week. Reaching agreement on the wording constrains debate, and he wants it to flow freely, he said.

In a series of early-morning tweets from his hotel room on Sunday, Mr. Trump blamed the “the Fake and Disgusting News” for predicting that this year’s gathering would end in disaster.In fact, he insisted, “we are having very good meetings, the Leaders are getting along very well.”

On trade and other matters, Mr. Trump has upended the assumption that the member countries — highly developed democracies with some of the world’s largest economies — would have broadly compatible views.ImageA sand art performance representing G7 leaders was displayed at the Plage de la Côte des Basques in Biarritz on the eve of the summit.

CreditJulien De Rosa/EPA, via ShutterstockAn elegant resort has turned into an armed camp, as French officials try to head off violent protests. Read more: The New York Times »

It's taken 50yrs for an American leader to stand up the China and say we are taking back what's ours, Trump is doing it, bloody awesome Bullshit he said that. China now wants to talk to Trump because they know the world won't stand for their crap anymore Wow two thoughts a Oh I really want his second thought come true 😂

The most newsworthy thing about this is his claim that he 'has thoughts'. I’m not driving this train wreck any more. Donald, you can handle this one on your own. I remember the last time I let you take the wheel...who the fuck bankrupts a casino? Gentlemen start your engines G6+1/2 Shame 1: Trump conceded regret then reversed course wished he’d raised the tariffs higher 1st head said: I regret 2nd head said: Should raise tariff

Who’s Trump kidding, you can’t have a “second” thought if you never had a thought in the first place. I'm not sure that's what he said. Like everything else he does! He must have doubled down Trump and thought iin the same sentence? Oxymoron. U R EnemyOfThePeople Second thoughts Does that mean he actually had first thoughts?

How could he have second thoughts? He has never had a thought at all. He doesn’t “think” that’s the problem with this idiot « Is it good for re-election, for staying out of jail? Who can tell? Have I nice day », says the first kvetching POTUS🙄 Flip flopper and look what happens the stock market, it’s horrible silly behavior.

No he didn’t! He just answered gibberish Anyone seen that 25th Amendment anywhere? Resist Wah wah wah.... can we say the words stupid, weak, coward, and bully? All words that describe this abomination of a human being who unfortunately represents the minority of our country. 8 years of collegiate level incompetence has enabled China to GangBang USA. Now it’s BigLeauge!

A Hong Kong citizen kneel down to a fucking police , betting not to fire a pistol again. The police resisted by kicking him and continued to point the pistol to journalists. The journalists are here to seek help! Policeterrorism HongKongProtests chinazism terrorism Eye4HK If this guy is allowed to go paint vets like GWB it will be the greatest miscarriage of justice since GWB

Why because he sees what it’s doing to the stock market? Can’t look that bad if he thinks he’s going to be re-elected!! No he doesn't. He's playing games Shouldn’t he be busy helping his daughter move all of her business dealings out of China. He says that now cause he thinks it’s what the people there want him to say. Once he is home he will flip flop on that comment too.

Now lets see if 🇨🇳 China Reciprocates Maybe other world leaders explaining how he’s screwing the worlds fonanaces right now is news to him. His administration and republicans simply tell him how great he is, and what great decisions he’s making. Reality is suddenly thrust in his face. He doesn't know what the fuck he's doing

Does New York Times always create Fake news against Trump? Sheldon Adelson, Trump's patron in-chief made all his money fr China, ripping China off for $100 Bil, using Trump's words. Escalation of trade war means China can also yank Adelson's casino license, putting Adelson in the poorhouse. well of course he has to be the center of attention, perverted as he is

Oh please 😒 He's never had a thought ever! He acts on impulses. WorstPresidentinHistory His press secretary just “clarified” his statement and said he had second thoughts because he should have raised them higher. Spin spin spin Right, like he had initial thoughts... or any thought at all Fake headline. Listen to the context.

He still has to have his first thought No he didn’t! Stop reporting grunts and uh-huhs as statements. Live in the G7 📡 I had not realized that President Trump had any thoughts. Trump is nuts plain and simple. THE CHOSEN ONE 25thAmendmentNow he actually said 'i have second thoughts about every thing'. What you said he said, is actually what the reporter asked, so get your facts straight plz.

Biarritz G7 President Trump said at the G7 summit that he had “second thoughts” about escalating the trade war with China... said... said.. said? Doubts He should have had second thoughts of running for president right from the beginning...and dropped out. I'm not a Hillary fan either...both of them should have dropped out...could have changed the course of history......crap! 😎

“thoughts” That's because he never understood what a tarrif was. That's not what I heard, trump's planning on putting a tariff on French fries! He’s having thoughts now? Why the partial Political view instead of what he really said. He said he has second thoughts on everything. Meaning, I look at ever decision to see if it is the correct one. Like a good CEO does. FAKE news

He never had first thoughts, he simply flys off the handle Second thoughts is his lie, the rest of the world telling him he's an idiot is more likely truth 😂😂😂😂😂no 2016 HRC election win?, no collusion? no obstruction?, no impeachment?, no recession?😂😂😂😂😂😂obedient news 🤡’s. 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 Consider tariffs as Royalties owed to American Companies.

It turn out to that similarity is merged👬👬👬👬 Spoiler alert: The idiot wishes he had made them more severe earlier. The art of the dither. Trump is a Russian spy. He will change his mind again once he gets back to his lackey aids. He never had a first thought. Wrong! This chain of events was predicted by slickenteur months ago and this Kashmir situation also unfolded as she predicted. Must follow her, she does brilliant political and analysis.

China tariffs fuel Trump 'order' for firms to cut China tiesTrump is is threatening to use the emergency authority granted by a powerful, but obscure federal law to “order” U.S. businesses to cut ties in China after it announced plans to raise tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. imports. Idiot & Thief thinks he has power & he does’nt. Prison soon Donorrhea This is negotiation.

Donald Trump Again Insists China Pays His Tariffs“I think our tariffs are very good for us,” he said hours after the Federal Reserve chairman warned that "trade policy uncertainty" is rattling the U.S. economy. China pays much in the same way Mexico is footing the bill for that wall. It’s a Lie 🤥 He’s in over his head, and frankly refuses to admit wrong and fix his mess.

China Retaliates Against Trump, Slaps U.S. With $75 Billion TariffsThe move comes after Trump delayed some tariffs on Chinese goods. What else were you guys expecting... lol You have to admit that he's an attractive male though, right? I think all you instagram models and “public figures” should take a week off of posting selfies and bashing everyone and spread awareness of the fires in the AmazonRainforest AmazonFire amazonrainforestfire forestfire amazon

China Retaliates Against Trump, Slaps U.S. With $75 Billion TariffsThe move comes after Trump delayed some tariffs on Chinese goods. No surprise there.... thing is serious between the two countries You putting him on your cover for so many years Inspired this/his movement Don’t ever forget Forbes

China announces tariffs on $75 billion of US goods as Trump heads to G7 summitChina announces it will impose tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. imports in retaliation for duty hikes the U.S. pledged to slap on Chinese imports. The move comes just as Pres. Trump is preparing to meet world leaders to discuss the global economy. This clown tRump will ruin the US. realDonaldTrump is incapable of discussing any issue, especially global economy. DonaldTrump's mission is to bankrupt America first. CNN MSNBC NBCNews CBSNews nytimes MaddowBlog Thought this was saying China is sending us giant rubik’s cubes

Escalation in U.S.-China trade war threatens global economy, poses Trump reelection riskAmerican cars, soybeans and oil largely produced in key swing states have been targeted for additional import tariffs by China, marking the latest volley in a widening trade war with the United States that has damaged the global economy. Sure, let's be more like China/Russia, the liberal socialist are the answer 😂 You are wrong! Please stop, getting old.