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Trump blames China trade talks blowup on ‘weak Democrats’



President Donald Trump on Wednesday attempted to pin the blame for the sudden stumble in US-China trade talks on the prospect of a Democrat retaking the White House in 2020, arguing that the Chinese would prefer to negotiate with one of his presidential competitors.

“The reason for the China pullback & attempted renegotiation of the Trade Deal is the sincere HOPE that they will be able to ‘negotiate’ with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to ripoff the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come,” Trump tweeted.

The first, sudden signs of trouble in the negotiations to end the yearlong trade war came Sunday when Trump tweeted a threat to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from the current 10% rate to 25%. The president said the increase would go into effect on Friday at 12:01 am ET.

Trump also said the US would impose another 25% tariff on $325 billion worth of goods not currently caught up in the trade war.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed Monday that the US planned to increase the tariff rate to 25% on the $200 billion tranche. According to the officials, the reason for the threat was because China had walked back some of its earlier commitments in trade talks.

“Over the course of the last week or so, we have seen an erosion in commitments by China, I would say retreating from specific commitments that had already been made,” Lighthizer said.

In addition, Lighthizer’s office on Wednesday officially submitted the draft text to raise the tariffs come Friday — making the threat very real.

Prior to the sudden reversal, negotiations between the US and China seemed to be coming along nicely. A deal was close as the Trump administration reportedly prioritized short-term gains over long-term structural changes to the Chinese economic system.

By Trump’s estimation the sudden difficulty from the Chinese is a delay tactic to try and hold out until a Democrat potentially takes over the Oval Office after the 2020 election, which the president believes will result in a worse deal for the US.

Whether that is the case is unclear but there is still some time to make a deal. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to come to Washington, DC, on Thursday for the next round of negotiations.

Here’s a timeline of the US-China trade war so far:

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