Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “The Story,” White House aide Kellyanne Conway defended Trump administration’s stance against China on trade by arguing a better trade deal would be “worth the wait” given the abuses by the Chinese over the past few decades.
Conway told host Martha MacCallum Trump was elected to “disrupt” the status quo of Washington, D.C. and improving trade agreements was part of it.
Partial transcript as follows:
MACCALLUM: So, why — why did the president say that they had called and wanted to come back to the table? And they say that they never called.
CONWAY: These trade negotiations are ongoing, and everyone knows that. The Chinese delegation has been here in Washington many times. We certainly have had our U.S. delegation representing the president over in China many times, very recently.
MACCALLUM: But the suggestion was that they had asked to reopen the negotiation, that they were ready to come to the table and talk, and they are saying that’s not the case.
CONWAY: Is there anyone who thinks that China is not ready to make a deal? The president has said that they’ve tried to make a deal several times. The president doesn’t like the deal.
This president is taking the long view on China, because it was neglected for so many decades, Martha.
MACCALLUM: There’s no doubt about that.
CONWAY: That it last left us with a half a trillion dollar trade deficit, with the number two economy in the world, China, the forced technology transfers, the stolen intellectual property.
MACCALLUM: There’s no doubt that there has been a major issue, that the president is the first president to actually take it on. But now …
CONWAY: But he’s not negotiating tweet by tweet. I have to push back. He’s got this delegation over —
MACCALLUM: Now, we’re sort of at the point where that’s getting hard. And that is not surprising given what is being taken on here, I don’t think.
So, can you give us an update on where things stand? And will there be a meeting next month?
CONWAY: Well, the president certainly is open to continue talks and negotiation. He’s made that very clear. He also in a series of tweets not so long ago put to China that this is about trade.
He’s also watching the protesters in Hong Kong, and he also said you’ve got to get your fentanyl out of this country, out of these communities and out of these kids. We see how it’s destroying 32,000 deaths last year.
But Secretary Mnuchin and Ambassador Lighthizer, they were just over in China very recently. The president doesn’t mind waiting if it’s a better deal for America. I mean, the other presidents didn’t even bother to make any deal.
This president came to this city to disrupt it. and part of that is to have bilateral trade agreements that no longer screw the American worker and American employers, but to make it better. These things take time.
In the meantime, he know — he thinks that tariffs are working, and look what he did with Japan at the G7. This is a huge trade agreement. He’s secured with them, agriculture, beef, but also digital technology.
MACCALLUM: So, you know, is — you know, you heard the introduction that we did, and it went, you know, sort of back and forth between these different messages.
Is it part of the president’s M.O. to kind of be predictable and kind of leave them guessing where he stands?
CONWAY: Sure, but anybody who doesn’t know where the president stands on trade with China hasn’t been paying attention for two and a half years, really decades, because the president said so much of these things as a — as a …
MACCALLUM: Does he consider President Xi a friend? Does he consider him a friend or an enemy?
CONWAY: He’s also said that we get along well, but he is not going to allow anybody, let alone the number two economy in the world play Americans for fools as has been done for so many years.
This president has proven he is willing to renegotiate better trade deals. He did it with South Korea in KORUS. He’s done it with the USMCA, which the people that work behind us, Martha, better get back here and vote on, because that will help constituents right, left, and center.
CONWAY: That renegotiates, it’s a new, modern, better, bigger NAFTA. It’s called USMCA. Obviously and he’s willing to do that with China. And I know many in the world are waiting to exhale for U.S.-China trade agreement. But why should he take a bad deal — he’s never done that.
MACCALLUM: They are. I mean, the farmers are, the market is, and all the — but there’s …
CONWAY: He’s a businessman. You know, the art of the deal is preceded by the art of the negotiation.
MACCALLUM: Understood. There are some reports out of China that they say that they don’t think that anything can happen before the 2020 election.
Does the president want to see this happen before the election? You said he’s willing to wait, but how long?
CONWAY: The president said, I think it was just today, that if they are waiting out the clock after 2020, thinking that maybe he won’t get reelected, they’re going to be disappointed. It will be harder for them to get a deal then. It will be harder for Americans to get a deal.
Why is this president driving such a hard bargain with China? For the all reasons I just told you. Half a trillion dollars trade deficit, forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft.
But there’s another reason. The industries that the president has roaring back as part of his incredible economy include industries that were flat on their back in large part because of our poor relationship with China on trade.
So, of the 6 million-plus jobs that have been created since Donald Trump was elected, Martha, 1.2 million are in combined manufacturing, constructing, warehousing, mining, all of these industries that were flat on their back, he is there for the forgotten men and forgotten women and that includes on trade with China. He can’t rush these things.
MACCALLUM: What about the farmers? They had 13 percent increase in bankruptcies this year. And there are reports that, you know, the agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, went out there to try to, you know, calm their fears a little bit.
But how long can he calm their fears for, if they continue to be under pressure and perhaps make a different choice?
CONWAY: We see that. We don’t want anyone to suffer. The fact is that you have to take the long view on deals like this.
What could the farmers and ranchers and the American agriculture economy be like if we actually got a trade deal with China that works for American farmers and American ranchers?
So, we know many of them have seen economic downturn. There’s been some compensation measures, and taking the long view means waiting for the best deal possible.
The president always welcomes them to come back. And his trade team has, frankly, been terrific.
MACCALLUM: I mean, there’s — he said himself that nobody is willing to bite this off. And it’s a big — it is a big issue. I think Americans across the board agree that something has to be done.
So, President Xi has asked the people of China to pursue self-reliance. He said get ready for the next long — for the new long march, he called it.
Will the president asked the same of the American people? You know, you look at the effort during World War II. I mean, does he see this as a war? Does he see it as something that will require Americans to sacrifice a bit?
CONWAY: I fail to see an analogy in this regard. The Trump economy is roaring and booming despite the people who talked about Russia, Russia, Russia, for two and a half years. Now, they want to talk about recession, recession, recession.
Look at the data released by Bloomberg just today. We have the highest consumer confidence level in 19 years. You can’t argue with the facts. When (ph) the facts show Americans are spending money and have confidence …
MACCALLUM: But if things will go a little bit more expensive and farmers have to, you know, take it on the chin a bit. I know he’s given billions of dollars to try to give them relief.
CONWAY: He has.
MACCALLUM: So, is it not — is it his view that it’s OK to ask people to make some sacrifices because this is such an important goal?
CONWAY: The president has made very clear that to get the best bilateral trade deal with China that benefits America unlike the way it’s been so nonreciprocal, imbalanced, and unfair to America — including the American farmers and ranchers, to wait for that is going to take a little bit longer.
But it will be worth the wait.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor