President Donald Trump said he intends to curb the U.S. economic relationship with China, contrasting himself with Joe Biden by threatening to punish any American companies that create jobs overseas and to forbid those that do business in China from winning federal contracts. “We’ll manufacture our critical manufacturing supplies in the United States, we’ll create ‘made in America’ tax credits and bring our jobs back to the United States and we’ll impose tariffs on companies that desert America to create jobs in China and other countries,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Monday where he complained at length about his Democratic re-election opponent.
“If they can’t do it here, then let them pay a big tax to build it someplace else and send it into our country,” he said of U.S. corporations. “We’ll prohibit federal contracts from companies that outsource to China and we’ll hold China accountable for allowing the virus to spread around the world.”
Trump has also recently entertained the idea of “decoupling” the U.S. economy from China, a dream of U.S. China hawks.
“Whether it’s decoupling or putting massive tariffs on China which I’ve been doing already,” he said. “We’re going to end our reliance on China because we can’t rely on China and I don’t want them building a military like they’re building right now and they’re using our money to build it.”
Despite Trump’s comments, bilateral trade is one key area of U.S.-China relations that hasn’t worsened recently, with both nations reaffirming their commitment to a phase-one trade deal that stopped tit-for-tat tariff increases. China’s trade surplus with the U.S. in August was $34.2 billion, the highest since November 2018.
Still, tensions are rising on the tech front as the Trump administration moves to prevent China from accessing U.S. user data on popular apps such as WeChat and TikTok. The U.S. is also moving to shut out Huawei Technologies Co. from access to U.S. technologies and equipment.
Trump has sought to make China an election-year issue, portraying Biden as a lackey of Beijing and blaming the country for the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. Polls show widespread public disapproval of the president’s handling of the pandemic.
Trump didn’t say when he would implement the policies but framed the moves as part of a second-term agenda.
“If Biden wins, China wins because China will own this country,” Trump said. “It’s the most important election in our history, right now, most important election in our history. Under my administration we will make America into the manufacturing superpower of the world and we’ll end our reliance on China once and for all.”