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Trump: 'Complete decoupling' from China remains an 'option'

  • "That was a policy option years ago, but I don't think it's a policy or reasonable policy option at this point," Robert Lighthizer said.
Published June 19, 2020

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump warned Thursday that "complete decoupling" between the deeply intertwined US and Chinese economies remains a potential policy.

The US "certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China. Thank you!" Trump tweeted.

He wrote that he was responding to comments by his trade representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been at the forefront of trade war negotiations with Beijing.

Lighthizer told a congressional committee on Wednesday that China so far has been living up to the terms of a "phase one" agreement that eased the dispute, but that decoupling the two economic giants was now impossible.

"That was a policy option years ago, but I don't think it's a policy or reasonable policy option at this point," he said.

Lighthizer described himself as a hardliner on China policy, and outlined the Trump administration's plans to "reset" the World Trade Organization, largely so that it can better rein in Beijing's policies which he says run afoul of free trade rules.

But his admission that the world's two largest economies are inextricably linked, despite Trump's aggressive campaign to push American firms to relocate production to the United States, caused some angst in Republican circles.

Trump tried to let his trade official off the hook.

"It was not Ambassador Lighthizer's fault (yesterday in Committee) in that perhaps I didn't make myself clear."

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