China trade deal ‘doesn’t feel the same’ amid coronavirus

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The coronavirus crisis has President Trump feeling queasy about his trade deal with China.

Trump said the landmark agreement “doesn’t feel the same” now that the pandemic has upended the global economy and reignited tensions between Washington and the Chinese Communist Party.

“The big thing is they should have never let this happen,” the president told Fox Business Network in an interview broadcast Thursday. “The ink was barely dry and the plague came over, and it doesn’t feel the same to me.”

Trump said he doesn’t want to speak to Chinese president Xi Jinping, though he said the two leaders have a “very good relationship.” He added that maintaining a partnership with China “may be hard to do” as the virus crisis complicates their relations.

“There are many things we could do,” he said. “We could cut off the whole relationship.”

The coronavirus had not yet forced China to lock down major cities when Trump and Chinese vice premier Liu He signed the phase-one agreement on Jan. 15 after months of negotiations.

But the US has since become the global epicenter of the pandemic with nearly 1.4 million cases and more than 84,000 deaths. Amid the crisis, the Trump administration has accused China of trying to cover up the outbreak and alleging that the virus emerged from a lab there. US officials have not presented detailed evidence for that claim, and China has denied wrongdoing.

The president said China will fulfill its obligation under the trade deal to buy more than $200 billion in American goods and services. But he repeated his stance that he’s not interested in renegotiating the pact.

“We’re not going to renegotiate,” Trump said. “I’m not happy about anything having to do with that particular subject right now.”

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2017 G20 Summit in Germany.
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi JinpingPatrik Stollarz/AFP via Getty Images

Trump’s Thursday comments were one of his administration’s latest efforts to ramp up pressure on China as the US grapples with the coronavirus outbreak and its economic devastation. The American unemployment rate skyrocketed to a record 14.7 percent last month as lockdowns meant to curb the virus helped put millions of people out of work.

But US and Chinese officials committed last week to cooperate on implementing the phase-one trade deal. Beijing has also defended its handling of the virus amid blistering criticisms from the White House.

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