Trump takes aim at China in UN speech as the trade war rages

Trump takes aim at China in UN speech as the trade war rages

Trump Xi

Reuters/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago state in Palm Beach, Florida.

  • President Donald Trump launched a broadside aimed at China's trade policies and economic practices during a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
  • Trump said China's trade and economic policies "cannot be tolerated" anymore.
  • China joined Iran, Syria, and Venezuela as the main targets of Trump's ire during the speech.
  • Tuesday's speech was also much harsher on China than Trump's 2017 UN address, while the president's previous criticism of North Korea turned to cautious praise.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday went after China during a speech to the UN General Assembly, taking direct aim at Beijing's trade practices and economic system.

"I have great respect and affection for my friend president Xi [Jinping], but I have made clear that our trade imbalance is just not acceptable," Trump said. "China's market distortions and the way they deal cannot be tolerated."

The president's harsh rebuke of China comes in the midst of a growing trade war between the two countries.

On Monday, the US formally imposed tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to hit $60 billion worth of US goods with tariffs of their own. The total value of goods between the two countries now subject to tariffs sits at $360 billion.


Amid the latest round of tariffs, China scrapped plans to hold trade negotiations with the US.

The tariffs are necessary, Trump said, to force the Chinese to make changes to its economic system, reduce the trade deficits between the US and China, and safeguard US industries.

"The United States lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs, nearly a quarter of all steel jobs, and 60,000 factories after China joined" the World Trade Organization, Trump said.

He added: "And we have racked up $13 trillion in trade deficits over the last two decades, but those days are over. We will no longer tolerate such abuse, we will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated and our wealth to be plundered and transferred."

Most economists agree that Trump's focus on trade deficits is misguided at best and say the likelihood tariffs lead to more manufacturing jobs in the US is low. They say the tariffs are likely to end up hurting American companies and consumers.


At the same time, trade experts and economists say China's practices, such as the theft of US intellectual property, should be addressed. But whether tariffs are the most effective tactic, especially since China has so far dug in rather than come to the negotiating table, remains to be seen.

China joined Venezuela, Syria, and Iran as the main focuses of Trump's ire during the speech, while North Korea fell from the president's pantheon of wrongdoers. The 2018 edition of Trump's speech was much harsher toward Beijing than the 2017 vintage.

During last year's speech, the president placed most of the blame for the US's trade ills on "mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies," while only briefly mentioning countries that "gamed the system and broke the rules."

The only direct mention of China was when Trump thanked the country, along with Russia, for upholding sanctions on North Korea.

North Korea, on the other hand, went from on of Trump's main targets in 2017 to an object of cautious praise in 2018. Last year, Trump derisively called Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man," but on Tuesday the president thanked the North Korean leader for "his courage and the steps he's taken" in negotiations over the rogue state's nuclear ambitions.