President Donald Trump: When I meet with the leaders of countries, as they come in — kings and queens and prime ministers and presidents and dictators — I meet them all. (Laughter.) Anybody who wants to come in — dictators, it’s okay, come on in. Whatever is good for the United States. We want to help our people. But the first thing they say to me almost always: “Congratulations on your economy.” They all say it. “Congratulations, it’s incredible what’s happened to your country. It’s incredible what’s happened to your economy.” First thing they say in almost every instance.
But central to this comeback is a series of bold initiatives to reform a broken system of international trade. We want thriving commerce with as many countries as possible, but trade must be fair, and to me, it must be my favorite word, “reciprocal.” It’s not reciprocal. We’re getting it to be much more reciprocal.
The American market is the most valuable and coveted market anywhere in the world. Those who want access must play by the rules, and they have to respect our game and our laws, and they have to treat our workers and businesses fairly — not the way they’ve been treating them over the last 25 years. America will not be taken advantage of anymore. (Applause.)
Many countries charge us extraordinarily high tariffs or create impossible trade barriers. Impossible. And I’ll be honest: European Union — very, very difficult. The barriers they have up are terrible. Terrible. In many ways, worse than China.
We’re working on legislation known as the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, meaning quite simply: What’s good for them is good for us. If they want to charge us, we charge them. It’s a very simple thing. Even people that aren’t well versed in what we all do say — I went to a couple of senators — went to Lindsey Graham. I said, “Lindsey, let me ask you. What do you think of that? They’re charging us 100 percent. We’ll charge them…” “That makes sense to me.” It really does. It makes sense to everybody because it’s very unfair the way we’re treated by certain countries. There are certain countries that the average tariff is over 100 percent. And we charge them nothing. And then they call it “fair trade.” That’s not fair trade; that’s stupid trade. (Laughter.) Of course, this will be subject to regaining the House, to be able to do these things.
Nowhere has the change in U.S. strategy been more vital or dramatic than in our dealings with respect to China. Before my election, Washington politicians stood by and did nothing while China ransacked our companies, stole our intellectual property, subsidized their industries at the expense of ours, and dumped their products in a deliberate strategy to close American factories all across our land.
For many years, Americans — leaders have just sat back. Maybe they didn’t understand what was going on. It’s impossible to believe that. But they just let it happen. And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse. And now we’ve changed it. It’s changed a lot. I’m sure you haven’t noticed, but it’s changed a lot.
In particular, since China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization in 2001, no one has manipulated numbers better or taken advantage of the United States more. And I won’t use this word, “cheated.” I will not say the word, “cheated.” But nobody has cheated better than China, but I will not say that. (Laughter.) We’ll say that off the record, okay? And there’s only about 600 cameras back there. In fact, that is a big group up there. Good. I hope you use it because it’s true. And they understand it’s true.
And I don’t blame China, by the way. I blame our leaders, because we should’ve been doing what they were doing. They did it to use. We didn’t do it to them. We were defenseless. We had no leadership. This was for a long time. This is long beyond the Obama administration.
So I don’t blame them. I said this to President Xi. I was making a big speech in China. I had 5,000 people in front of me and I was talking about how bad China was. And I said, “This is not going over well.” (Laughter.) I was in Beijing — this massive hall. And I looked down at President Xi. He was sitting right where Larry is. He was not as imposing a figure as Larry Kudlow, but he was quite imposing. (Laughter.) And I said — I said, “You know, I think he’s getting very angry.” And I then I realized, “Hmm, how do we save this? This is going to be a disastrous afternoon.” (Laughter.) And I said, “But I don’t blame China. I blame our leaders.” And then I realized, that’s true. I blame our leaders for allowing it to happen. I’ve told that to you and many people many times.
But the theft of American jobs and American wealth is over. They understand that. My administration has taken the toughest-ever action to confront China’s trade abuses. We are taking in billions and billions of dollars in tariffs that China is paying for. We’re not paying. China is paying because they’re devaluing their currency to such an extent and they’re pouring tremendous amounts of cash into their system.
They’re having their worst year in more than 57 years, more than half a century. Their supply chains are cracking very badly, and they are dying to make a deal. We’re the ones that are deciding whether or not we want to make a deal. We’re close.
A significant phase one trade deal with China could happen. It could happen soon. But we will only accept a deal if it’s good for the United States and our workers and our great companies, because we’ve been hit very hard. We’d have deficits for many years — go back many years — $500 billion a year. Not million. Five hundred million dollars a year is a lot. Five hundred billion dollars a year in trade deficits with China. And we have it with many other countries, just not nearly as large. China probably makes up almost 60 percent of our deficits.
The White House
Abstracted from: Remarks by President Trump at the Economic Club of New York