President Trump said Sunday that he has reached a trade deal with Japan, is confident of reaching one with the U.K., and is still determined to force China to make enough concessions to get a deal with Beijing.
Mr. Trump said the agreement-in-principle with Japan is worth “billions and billions” of dollars and includes a big purchase of American corn, partly filling the void left by China’s refusal to buy U.S. farm products amid an escalating trade war.
“It’s a very big transaction, and we’ve agreed in principle. It’s billions and billions of dollars. Tremendous for the farmers,” Mr. Trump said in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Group of Seven summit in France. “We have excess corn in various parts of our country, with our farmers, because China did not do what they said they were going to do.”
Tensions with China were a recurring theme in Biarritz. Mr. Trump agreed when reporters asked if he was having “second thoughts” about his approach to the dispute — tit-for-tat tariffs rattled the markets Friday — though the White House said the president’s comments were misconstrued.
“His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
Mr. Trump said he expects China to crack first in negotiations, citing the pressure from his tariffs on over $500 billion in Chinese goods.
“I think they want to make a deal much more than I do,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. But we are talking to China very seriously.”
His chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that negotiators from both countries still plan to meet in September, despite increased tensions.
Mr. Trump was able to contrast the U.S.-China turmoil by highlighting the breakthrough with Japan, saying parties plan to ink a final deal in September. Some tariffs on Japanese goods will be removed, though existing levies on autos will remain.
He also said he doesn’t foresee any impediments to trade deal with the U.K., now that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in charge of pulling Britain out of the European Union instead of Theresa May.
“We’re going to do a very big trade deal — bigger than we’ve ever had with the U.K.,” he said. “We don’t anticipate any problems. Before, we were sort of stymied.”
Mr. Trump struck an upbeat tone from the outset of the summit, which will end Monday with working sessions and a press conference.
The president complimented the weather and his French hosts at an opening lunch Saturday, though tensions over his hard-charging style and posture on Iran, climate and trade have been simmering beneath the surface.
Before flying to France, the president said he may invoke emergency powers to “order” U.S. businesses out of China and ramped up tariffs in response to levies Beijing imposed on U.S. products. The events caused the stock market to plummet.
Mr. Trump also dropped the pretense of friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping by questioning who was the bigger “enemy” — Mr. Xi or the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jay Powell.
The president is furious at Mr. Powell for refusing to signal additional cuts to interest rates. A cut could spur the economy heading into the 2020 election year.
“I don’t think he’s doing a good job at all,” Mr. Trump said before leaving for France. “I don’t think he’s much of a chess player.”
Mr. Trump’s critics say it is not the central bank’s job to provide cover for his unwieldy trade wars, however. His rhetoric and latest round of tariffs, announced via tweet Friday, are making Wall Street and Capitol Hill skittish.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat running for president, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Mr. Trump is using tariffs like a “meat cleaver” and that his approach to China is “complete chaos.”
Yet Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump ally, said Democrats have wanted to confront China for years. He said the president is finally doing it.
“We just have to accept the pain that comes with standing up to China,” he told CBS.
Retailers, however, say they’re exasperated.
“It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment. The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?” said David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation.
Mr. Trump says no one at the G7 is trying to talk him out of his tactics with China.
“I think they respect the trade war. It has to happen,” Mr. Trump said.
Yet the British prime minister 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,” Mr. Johnson said. “The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade, and that’s what we want to see.”
⦁ Alex Swoyer and Dave Boyer contributed to this report.