President Donald Trump said Friday that he isn’t thinking about a possible next stage of the U.S. trade deal with China, adding that the relationship between the two nations has been “severely damaged” by the coronavirus pandemic.
“They could have stopped the plague. They could have stopped it. They didn’t stop it,” Trump said on Air Force One en route to Florida, according to reporters present on the plane.
Asked if that friction meant “phase two” of the U.S.-China trade deal would no longer happen, Trump said he wasn’t even thinking about it and that he had many other things on his mind.
The status of the trade agreement between the two economic superpowers, the first phase of which was signed and went into effect earlier this year, has come under question amid the Covid-19 crisis.
The virus, which was first observed in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread around the world and taken a devastating toll on America’s health and economy. More than 3 million cases and at least 133,291 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Trump said in May that he was “very torn” about whether to scrap the first phase of the pact with Beijing, while officials in his administration have assured that both countries are still expected to honor the deal.
Phase one of the deal followed a protracted trade war with China that hung over much of Trump’s first term in office. The agreement took initial steps toward addressing issues including intellectual property protections and forced technology transfers, while also saying that China will buy at least $200 billion worth of U.S. goods over two years.