(CNSNews.com) – President Trump hit back early Friday at critics at home for challenging his comments in Beijing on the massive trade deficit with China, doubling down on blaming not China but past U.S. administrations for the situation.
“I don’t blame China,” Trump reiterated on Twitter.
“I blame the incompetence of past Admins for allowing China to take advantage of the U.S. on trade leading up to a point where the U.S. is losing $100s of billions,” he continued.
“How can you blame China for taking advantage of people that had no clue? I would’ve done same!”
The unrepentant Friday morning tweet was posted after the president came under fire for earlier remarks on what he described as the “very one-sided and unfair” economic playing field.
“I don’t blame China,” he said, speaking alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday.
“After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?”
“I give China great credit,” he said, then added that he does, however, “blame past administrations for allowing this out-of-control trade deficit to take place and to grow.”
“We have to fix this because it just doesn’t work for our great American companies, and it doesn’t work for our great American workers,” Trump said. “It is just not sustainable.”
The Washington Post’s David Nakamura tweeted that Trump’s words were met by an “[a]udible gasp from reporters” in the room.
Reaction was quick in coming from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who for months has been urging Trump to back up his “tough talk” on the trade imbalance with China with concrete action.
“The president may not blame China, but I do, and so do millions of Americans who voted for him and others who have lost their jobs at the hands of China’s rapacious trade policies,” he said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
“After campaigning like a lion against China’s trade practices, the president is governing like a lamb,” the New York Democrat said. “Rather than treating China with kid gloves, the president should be much tougher with China – as he promised he would be on the campaign trail.”
In fact, Trump made similar comments on the campaign trail last year.
At a rally in Denver three days before the election, he said he did not “hold it against China,” but blamed “the stupidity of our leadership to allow China to get away with it.”
In that speech, the GOP nominee said that the U.S. has “people that don’t know what they’re doing, making deals with some of the smartest people in the world.”
“They use their smartest, toughest, meanest people,” he said of the Chinese. “We use dumb people. We use hacks.”
Earlier in the campaign, however, he also said the U.S. could not “continue to allow China to rape our country,” telling a May 1 rally in Indiana that China was responsible for “the greatest theft in the history of the world.”
‘Little bit of tongue-in-cheek’
Trump’s remarks in Beijing this week about not blaming China came immediately after he said that the U.S. annual trade deficit with China was “shockingly, hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Estimates are as high as $500 billion a year.”
“We must immediately address the unfair trade practices that drive this deficit, along with barriers to market success,” he said. “We really have to look at access, forced technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property – which just, by and of itself, is costing the United States and its companies at least $300 billion a year.”
Briefing reporters after Trump’s meetings Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that as he had listened to the president’s words about blame for the trade deficit, “there was a little bit of tongue-in-cheek in that characterization.”
“But there was also a lot of truth to it,” he said, citing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as having made the point during the discussions that all 15 of the highest trade imbalances the U.S. has recorded were with China.
“And so I think what the president was just reflecting on is, look, we are where we are because previous administrations – whether through benign neglect, which is my own characterization of it, or for whatever reasons – allowed this to happen, and allowed it to get so out of balance that now it’s not an easy thing to rebalance.”
Tillerson said Trump had made it clear that the situation was “not sustainable” and that the “paradigm” has to be changed.
“But I think his characterization of not blaming a large developing country from doing what they can do – you know, I feel the same way about a number of actions that countries take – if the door is open, you’re going to walk through it,” he said.
“And I think in this case the president was simply saying, look, previous administrations have kind of left this trade door open.”