WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was very disappointed in China over its failure to contain the novel coronavirus, and that the worldwide pandemic had cast a pall over his trade deal with Beijing.
The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, in December, was spreading as the United States and China signed a Phase 1 trade deal in January that was hailed by the Republican president as a major achievement.
“I’m very disappointed in China,” Trump said in an interview broadcast on Fox Business Network.
“They should have never let this happen. So I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry and the plague came over. And it doesn’t feel the same to me,” he said.
The U.S. president’s pique extended to Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom, Trump has said repeatedly, he has a good relationship.
“But I just – right now I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to speak to him,” Trump said.
Under the Phase 1 agreement, Beijing pledged to buy at least $200 billion in additional U.S. goods and services over two years while Washington agreed to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods in stages.
A Chinese state-run newspaper has reported that some government advisers in Beijing were urging fresh talks and possibly invalidating the agreement.
Trump said again he was not interested in renegotiating.
“There are many things we could do. We could do things. We could cut off the whole relationship,” he replied.
“Now, if you did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion if you cut off the whole relationship,” Trump said, referring to estimated U.S. annual imports from China, which Trump often refers to as lost money.
The remark drew ridicule from Hu Xijin, editor in chief of China’s influential Global Times tabloid, who referred to Trump’s much-criticized comments last month about how COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, might be treated.
“This president once suggested COVID-19 patients inject disinfectants to kill the virus,” Hu said in a Twitter post. “Remember this and you won’t be surprised when he said he could cut off the whole relationship with China. All I can say is he is beyond my imagination for a normal president.”
The pandemic has highlighted China’s key role in the supply chain for products from generic drugs to medical and personal protective equipment.
While U.S. intelligence agencies said the virus did not appear to be manmade or genetically modified, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said early in May, without providing supporting information, that there was “a significant amount of evidence” it came from a laboratory in Wuhan.
In April, the World Health Organization said all available evidence suggested the virus originated in bats and was not manipulated or constructed in a lab.
In the Fox Business interview, which was taped on Wednesday, Trump focused more on China’s response to the outbreak than on its origin.
“We have a lot of information, and it’s not good. Whether it came from the lab or came from the bats, it all came from China, and they should have stopped it. They could have stopped it, at the source,” he said.
“It got out of control.”