President Donald Trump argued Tuesday that the strong economy in the United States allowed him to pursue tough trade deals with countries such as China.
The president spoke to the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday afternoon with some of the world’s biggest business leaders.
Trump boasted that since his election, the S&P was up 45 percent, the Dow Jones was up 50 percent, and Nasdaq was up 60 percent.
“This also allows me the latitude and timing to take some of the horrible, incompetent, just terrible trade deals that have been made over the years and make them great,” Trump said.
Many prominent business leaders remain skeptical of the president’s tough trade policies and tariffs leveled on China, despite the overall strength of the American economy.
CEO of Hess corporation John Hess questioned Trump about the “growing consensus” that the trade war was hurting business growth and capital spending in the United States, especially in the manufacturing, auto, and oil industries.
Trump acknowledged that some of the companies were “a little bit down” as a result of the trade fights, but argued it was a fight worth having.
“The real cost, John, would be if we did nothing, the cost of doing nothing was killing us as a country,” he said.
Trump said that the United States should not accept China’s trade imbalance and cheating.
“That would be the real cost, we can’t do that,” he said.
Trump said there were very few price increases or inflation as a result of the trade battles.
“Nobody’s cheated better than China,” he said, and joked, “But I will not say that we’ll say that off the record ok?”Acknowledging the media cameras in the room, Trump added, “Good, I hope you use it because it’s true.”
Trump recalled that China came to the table to make a deal, but expressed disappointment that in May, China went back on nearly all of the terms that they were considering.
Trump said he was “surprised” by their decision, but had no problem announcing more tariffs on their products.
“I tell you what, I’ll bet you they wished they didn’t do it,” he said, referring to China.
The United States has tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese products, while the president has threatened to level additional tariffs on December 15, 2019.
In November, both China and the United States agreed to a “phase one” deal to remove some of the tariffs, but that final agreement has not been signed.
Trump told the group that he had no qualms about raising tariffs on China if they failed to complete their deal.
“I tell this to Larry (Kudlow), I tell this to everybody. If we don’t make a deal we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs,” he said.