The US president has stepped up his anti-Chinese rhetoric in recent weeks, blaming Beijing for the COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 68,000 Americans, as well as laying waste to the economy. Within the last six weeks, some six million workers have been laid off from their jobs. With the economy in tatters, Donald Trump’s hopes of securing a second term in November have taken a major hit, with one recent poll putting his Democratic challenger Joe Biden 11 points ahead.
The president has vowed to punish China and had suggested imposing tariffs of up to $1 trillion on Beijing, as a form of reparations.
At a press conference, Mr Trump refused to be drawn on what his next moves might be in his ongoing spat with China.
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When asked about tariffs, the US President said: “I don’t want to say. We have a very complicated game going on.
“Call it Poker or Chess but it’s not Checkers.”
The Trump administration has accused China of deliberately keeping the world in the dark over its coronavirus outbreak and thereby facilitating its spread around the world.
Last week, White House officials briefed journalists off the record that the administration was considering its options for retaliation.
These are believed to include not only the imposition of tariffs, but also cancelling some of the massive US debt held by China.
One official said: “There is a discussion as to how hard to hit China and how to calibrate it properly.”
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The US signed a first phase trade deal with China in January, in a sign of thawing relations between the two superpowers, after months of rising tensions over terms of trade.
The deal cut some tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for Chinese pledges to purchase more American farm, energy and manufactured goods.
It also addressed some of the US complaints about Chinese theft of intellectual property.
Tariffs of up to 25 percent still remain on some $370 billion worth of Chinese goods imports.
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Donald Trump said that the trade deal now took second place to coronavirus considerations.
He told reporters: “We signed a trade deal where they’re supposed to buy, and they’ve been buying a lot, actually.
“But that now becomes secondary to what took place with the virus.
“The virus situation is just not acceptable.”
It comes as the US Secretary of State said that there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated from a Wuhan laboratory.
Mike Pompeo also said that this was not the first time that Chinese lab failures had allowed a deadly virus to escape and endanger the world.
He told ABC news: “There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset.
“But I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”
He added: “These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab.”
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