Tuesday 12 November 2019 6:20 pm

Donald Trump defends China trade war but says a deal ‘close’

US President Donald Trump has doubled down on his tariff war with China in a major speech, accusing the country of “ransacking” the American economy, but also saying phase one of a trade deal is “close”.

Read more: China trade expo yields results as US deal hangs in balance

Talking at the Economic Club of New York, Trump said his policies had caused “an economic boom the like of which we have never seen before”. The President said he had returned manufacturing jobs to the country and lifted millions out of poverty.

Trump’s speech on the economy – widely seen as an opening salvo in the 2020 presidential election campaign – came two weeks after US economic growth was shown to have slowed to 1.9 per cent in the third quarter.

The US manufacturing industry has suffered under the uncertainty of Trump’s trade war with China, while capital investment has plateaued in 2019.

Yet the economy is outperforming the rest of the G7, unemployment is close to record lows and stock markets have recently hit record highs on hopes that a trade deal with China could soon be signed.

“We’re close, a significant phase one trade deal with China could happen, could happen soon,” Trump told an audience of the US’s leading businesspeople. “They’re dying to make a deal.”

He renewed his attacks on the world’s second-largest economy. “Nobody’s cheated better than China,” he said. “The theft of American wealth and American jobs is over, they understand that,” he added.

Worryingly for European Union policymakers, Trump said trade with the bloc was “very, very difficult”. He said: “The barriers they have up are terrible, in many ways worse than China”.

In a pitch to middle America, Trump said his policies had added 1.2m manufacturing and construction jobs to the economy. He laid into his potential presidential election opponents, calling their economic policies “crazy”.

The President said unemployment is at its lowest in 51 years, with record numbers of African American, Asian and Hispanic people in work.

In one of many attacks on the US’s central bank, he said these achievements were “despite” the Fed carrying out a record number of interest rate rises, “which were far too fast an increase”.

Read more: US stock markets hit all-time highs on trade war optimism

Trump said he wanted negative interest rates like the Eurozone and Japan so the US government could be paid to borrow. “Give me some of that,” he said, “give me some of that money.”

(Image credit: Getty)