US President Donald Trump says he is not interested in talking to China about the second phase of a trade deal and has signed laws he says will hold the country accountable for its oppressive actions in Hong Kong.
- Donald Trump says he thinks many people will leave Hong Kong
- Under the new laws, Hong Kong will lose preferential trade treatment and be treated the same as mainland China
- Despite saying he doesn’t want talks on a phase two deal, Mr Trump has described the phase one agreement as “great”
The legislation and order are part of the Trump administration’s offensive against China for what the President calls unfair treatment by the rising Asian superpower, and its handling of the coronavirus.
The administration’s almost-daily broadsides against China come as Mr Trump defends his response to the virus, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases in the US, and as he works to portray Joe Biden, his expected presidential challenger, as weak on China.
Mr Trump said Mr Biden never did anything except make bad foreign-policy decisions, and he claimed his Democratic rival’s entire career had been a “gift to the Chinese Communist Party”.
US-China relations at a low
Since the two nations signed phase one of a trade deal, ongoing talks have been stalled, with virtually no hope of restarting before the November election.
The legislation Mr Trump signed into law targeted police units that had cracked down on Hong Kong protesters, as well as Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing a new, strict national security law widely seen as chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The mandatory sanctions are also required to be imposed on banks that conduct business with the officials.
Politicians from both parties have urged Mr Trump to take strong action in response to China’s new national security law that erodes the “one country, two systems” framework, under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997.
“This law gives my administration powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals and the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom,” Mr Trump said.
“Their freedom has been taken away. Their rights have been taken away, and with it goes Hong Kong in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets.
“A lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong, I suspect.”
Mr Trump said the new rules would end the preferential trade treatment Hong Kong had received for years.
“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” Mr Trump said.
Phase two trade deal off for the moment
“I’m not interested right now in talking to China,” Mr Trump replied when asked in an interview with CBS News whether phase two trade talks were dead.
Mr Trump referred to the phase one trade agreement signed in January as a “great trade deal”.
“But as soon as the deal was done, the ink wasn’t even dry, and they hit us with the plague,” he said, referring to the coronavirus, which first emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
“So right now, I’m not interested in talking to China about another deal.”
Mr Trump faces a tough battle for re-election on November 3 and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic has drawn lukewarm support from Americans.
Mr Trump has repeatedly blamed China for not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.
“Make no mistake. We hold China fully responsible for concealing the virus and unleashing it upon the world,” the President said.
“They could have stopped it, they should have stopped it. It would have been very easy to do at the source, when it happened.”