The future of the United States-China trade deal remains in jeopardy.
Worries over the deteriorating relationship between the world’s two largest economies have escalated following President Donald Trump’s threat today that he could cut ties with Beijing over its alleged mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak.
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In an interview with Fox Business, the United States president said that he had no interest in holding discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping and blamed the country for failing to contain the COVID-19 illness, which has sickened 4.42 million people around the world and killed at least 300,000. (The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.)
“I’m very disappointed in China,” Trump added in the interview. “They should have never let this happen… I make a great trade deal, and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry, and the plague came over.”
Speaking about Xi, he said, “Right now, I don’t want to speak to him.”
The American leader also warned that he could sever ties between the two countries.
“There are many things we could do. We could cut off the whole relationship. Now, if you did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion,” he explained, referring to the U.S.’s estimated annual imports from China.
Trump and Xi inked a “phase one” trade agreement in mid-January, putting a stop to their more-than-yearlong tariff dispute. The deal included a commitment from China to increase its purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over the next two years, compared with the amount in 2017. (That figure includes $76.7 billion more in U.S. exports this year, plus another $123.3 billion in 2021.)
However, tensions between Washington and Beijing have run high amid the pandemic, particularly after the U.S. accused China of contributing to the global economic fallout. (The U.S. has been the hardest-hit country in the spread of the coronavirus.) On Tuesday, a coalition of Republican senators introduced a bill dubbed the “COVID-19 Accountability Act,” which would give Trump authorization to impose sanctions on China if the country doesn’t provide an account of the events leading up to the outbreak.