Top Trump administration economic officials emphasized on Sunday that reaching a trade deal with China remains their goal, but they’re prepared to take action to defend U.S. interests.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused repeatedly on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to comment on specifics of back-channel discussions with China. But “you’ll know when we reach a deal there’s progress,” he said. “That’s our objective.”
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the administration was “listening” to the Chinese.
“We’re willing to work with them,” he said. “But we’re clear-eyed about this.”
Mnuchin said a trade war with China remained possible, “but I don’t expect it at all.” And he dismissed concerns about the rattled stock markets and agricultural sector.
“I don’t expect it to have a meaningful impact on our economy,” he said.
On the contrary, the Treasury secretary added, reforming Chinese trade practices could be a boon to the U.S. economy.
“It’s only $135 billion of goods in a $20 trillion economy, and if we can open up their $10 trillion economy for us to compete fairly, this is one of the single biggest opportunities long term for U.S. companies,” he said.
Still, Navarro made clear the administration views Chinese trade practices as a challenge to American well-being and security.
“They are in competition with us over economic prosperity and national defense,” he said. “And this is a competition the president takes very, very seriously.”
President Donald Trump is pushing proposals to impose duties on $150 billion worth of Chinese goods, with China threatening to respond with tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods.