- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2019

The White House on Sunday said President Trump regrets not raising tariffs on China even higher, hoping to clear the air after Mr. Trump said he had “second thoughts” about his approach to the trade war that’s rattled global markets and fellow leaders.

Mr. Trump also said his aides and Japan are “fairly close” to landing a trade deal at the Group of Seven meetings in France and they “don’t anticipate any problems” in striking a pact with the U.K., if Prime Minister Boris Johnson can pull off a “Brexit” from the European Union.

Mr. Trump struck an upbeat tone at the outset of the weekend meetings in Biarritz, complimenting the weather and his French hosts, though tensions over his hard-charging style, posture on Iran and trade wars are simmering beneath the surface.

Before departing, the president “ordered” American companies Friday to move their business out of China and ramped up tariffs in response to levies Beijing imposed on U.S. products, causing the stock market to plummet.

Mr. Trump, who rarely expresses regrets, caused a stir when reporters asked if he had second thoughts about his approach to the dispute.

“Might as well. Might as well,” Mr. Trump said. “I have second thoughts about everything.”

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement shortly after the meeting.

“His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” she said.

Mr. Trump says no one at the G7 is trying to talk him out of his strategy.

“I think they respect the trade war. It has to happen,” Mr. Trump said.

Yet Mr. Johnson, of Britain, sounded a note of caution while seated just feet away.

“Just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we’re in favor of trade peace on the whole, and dialing it down if we can,” he said. “The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade, and that’s what we want to see … We don’t like tariffs on the whole.”

Mr. Trump, who also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday, is scheduled to attend more meetings Sunday before a closing session and press conference on Monday.

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