President Donald Trump said Sunday he “regrets” not raising tariffs sooner against China on the second day of the G7 summit in Barritz, France, comments that required a clarification from the White House about “second thoughts” on the decision.
Trade dominated talks among the leaders of the seven nations, including a deal in principle between the United States and Japan that Trump said included “hundreds of millions of dollars of corn — existing corn.”
Also, there are ramifications of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union as Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended his first G7 summit.
But the gathering’s host, French President Emmanuel Macron, focused on another issue by inviting Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, for talks outside the summit. G7 members are seeking to salvage the 2015 nuclear agreement signed by President Barack Obama that Trump pulled out of last year and instituted sanctions.
The Islamic Republic official doesn’t want to meet with Trump or members of the U.S. delegation, according to Iranian state media.
Trump said “no comment” when asked about Zarif’s visit during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Before the Iranian development was revealed, Trump had a breakfast meeting with Johnson.
Trump was asked three times by reporters if he was having second thoughts how the trade conflict with China has escalated.
“I have second thoughts about everything,” he said.
Afterward, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham clarified his comments in a statement.
“This morning in the [meeting] with the UK, the president was asked if he had ‘any second thought on escalating the trade war with China,’ ” Grisham said in the statement. “His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.”
Before leaving for the summit with leaders of the world’s most industrialized countries, he said tariffs will rise on Chinese goods. They would increase from 25 percent to 30 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products and from 10 percent to 15 percent on a remaining $300 billion in goods. Shortly earlier, China said said it would levy its own tariffs of $75 billion on U.S. imports. The U.S. stock market plummeted on the news from both side.
“What [China[ has done is outrageous,” he said.
But Trump said he has “no plans right now” to use a national security law he mentioned last week to declare an emergency and force U.S. companies to leave China.
“If I want, I could declare a national emergency,” he said. But, “actually, we’re getting along very well with China right now. … So we’ll see what happens.”
Johnson offered his opinion on the China-U.S. trade dispute: “Just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we’re in favor of trade peace on the whole, and dialing it down if we can.”
It was the first face-to-face meeting with the two leaders since Johnson replaced Theresa May as prime minister.
“We’re going to do a fantastic deal once we clear up some of the obstacles in our path,” Johnson told reporters at the gathering.
Trump responded: “We’re talking about many different deals, but we’re having a good time. As far as UK and the United States, we’re working on a very big trade deal and I think it’s going to work out very well.
“On the whole, the U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade, and that’s what we want to see,” Johnson said. “And so we’re keen to see — we don’t like tariffs on the whole.”
Trump later met with Japan’s Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau where they also discussed trade. All seven world leaders and the European Council President Donald Tusk met during a working lunch on inequality, session on economic, security and foreign policy issues, as well as evening program with their spouses.
“We’ve been working on a deal with Japan for a long time,” Trump told reporters. “It involves agriculture and it involves e-commerce and many other things. It’s a very big transaction, and we’ve agreed in principle.”
Japan has agreed to buy a lot of the U.S. corn surplus, Trump noted.
“In Japan we are now experiencing inspect pest on some of the agricultural products,” Abe said. “And there is a need for us to buy certain amount of agricultural products. And this will be done by the Japanese private sector. That means that Japanese corporations will need to buy additional agricultural products.
Trump and Abe said they expect to sign the deal around meetings of the United Nations General Assembly next month in New York.
“As shown by these meetings, we have been conducting very frequent exchange of opinions, as well as visits,” Abe told reporters. “And looking back at the history of Japan-U.S. relations, we’ve never seen this frequent level of visits between the two leaders as we have seen at this moment.
“So I think it is fair to say that, we as the leaders of Japan and the United States, now enjoy a robust relationship of trust more so than ever, and same can be said vis-à-vis the status of the Japan-U.S. relations in general.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said during the news conference the preliminary agreement addresses industrial tariffs, agriculture and digital trade. It does not eliminate 2.5 percent tariffs on Japanese vehicles or major auto parts.
United States also is looking for new trade with Canada once the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is signed.
“We’re going to be significantly expanding our trading relationship when the USMCA gets done and completed,” Trump said alongside Trudeau. “Our farmers love it. The unions love it. The workers love it. Manufacturers love it. Everybody likes it. I think most Democrats like it. So, hopefully, that’ll be put to a vote fairly soon.
Trudeau said: “The Canadian and American economy are doing well, partially because of the trading relationship we have and the great work we did. …
“And we have a deal that we were able to negotiate that’s good for our workers, good for our citizens, good for the middle class. And that’s the kind of thing that we need to see more of around the world.”