U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with China's Xi Jinping on Thursday at Mar-a-Lago Winter White House in Florida. Ahead of the meeting, the president signed two executive orders amid aims to crack down on abuses of trade agreements and bad trade deals that have led to a budgetary deficit in the U.S.
Trump has maintained tough rhetoric regarding U.S. engagements in what he says are "bad trade deals" ever since announcing his presidential candidacy in June 2015. The president has pledged to fix the country's trade deficit with competitors including China and Mexico. Trump specifically accused China of "artificially devaluing their currency" to gain a competitive advantage. He has also vowed to "bring back manufacturing jobs," citing the increase on taxes in the U.S. in the decades since the 1980s Ronald Reagan administration.
Trump has also maintained his tough stance on North Korea, another issue on the table that he has vowed to crack down on, especially in response to Pyongyang's testing of a nuclear missile that crashed into the Sea of Japan in February. Speaking to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe during the latter's visit to the U.S., Trump stated: "I just want everybody to know that the U.S. stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent."
Trump's relations with Beijing have been rocky since his Jan. 20 inauguration, marred by the president's acceptance of a phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and several other congratulatory phone calls from world leaders. Beijing has long considered Taiwan to be a rogue Chinese province since Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang forces retreated to the island in the final stages of the Chinese Civil War. Remaining a hot-button issue with the Chinese, the U.S. has been in pursuit of a "One China" policy since the Richard Nixon administration and Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972.
While China has told Trump that they will not accept the "One China"policy as a bargaining chip, the president responded by saying that nothing is off the table. However, Trump later reaffirmed the importance of U.S. relations with China, holding a number of phone calls with Xi.
More recently, the U.S. president had accused the Chinese government of not doing enough to tackle the North Korean threat. This week, in an interview with the Financial Times, he's stated that "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. […] China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't; and if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don't it won't be good for anyone."
Speaking with an interviewer, Trump also spoke about trade and his relationship with President Xi, noting: "I have great respect for him. I have [immense] respect for China. I would not be at all surprised if we did something that would be very dramatic and good for both countries and I hope so."
Regarding trade and tariffs, Trump said he didn't wish to comment on the topic specifically until having actually met with Xi but did direct accusations at previous U.S. administrations for being clueless in regard to trade with China.
"When you talk about currency manipulation, when you talk about devaluations, they are world champions. And our country hasn't had a clue, they haven't had a clue. The past administration hasn't had; and many administrations, I don't want to say only Obama; this has gone on for many years, they haven't had a clue."
When he was asked what China's incentive would be if Beijing were to cooperate with the U.S. on North Korea, Trump said he thinks, "Trade is the incentive. It is all about trade."
Even though Trump has plans to impose trade tariffs on those American companies that have production facilities abroad before shipping the facilities over to the U.S., President Trump has said that he is also willing to undertake the biggest tax reformation in the U.S. since the Reagan era, saying his plan is an incentive for companies to remain in the U.S. and return to the U.S.
Speaking in the Oval Office on Friday, Trump stated: "We're going to get these bad trade deals straightened out. The jobs and wealth have been stripped from our country, year after year, decade after decade, trade deficit upon trade deficit reaching more than $700 billion last year alone and lots of jobs."
Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained some details regarding the executive orders, saying: "The first order directs the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to examine every claim of trade abuse and nonreciprocal practices that are currently contributing to the large and persistent trade deficit in the U.S., which was the largest [trade deficit] of any major nation in 2016 at $500 billion."
"The second executive order addresses the current lack of enforcement of one of our strongest tools in fighting unfair trade practices, countervailing duties. Countervailing duties were put in place to prevent the problem of other countries dumping undervalued goods into American markets, making it impossible for American businesses to compete with artificially low prices."
From the beginning of the George W. Bush administration till the end of the Barack Obama administration, over $2.8 billion in import taxes were not collected on these duties, Spicer asserted.