US President Donald Trump has renewed his threat to cut ties with China, insisting he has not taken the option of severing links off the table.
It comes a day after trade representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress he did not see decoupling the US and Chinese economies as a viable option.
“It was not Ambassador Lighthizer’s fault (yesterday in Committee) in that perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, but the US certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.
The world’s two largest economies have been at loggerheads over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and China’s move to impose security legislation on Hong Kong, among multiple points of friction that have worsened this year.
Mr Trump last month signalled a further deterioration in the relationship, saying he had no interest in speaking to President Xi Jinping right now and suggesting he could even cut ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
Mr Lighthizer, asked about US-China ties during a hearing of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday (local time), said the issue of decoupling was “a complicated one.”
“Do I think that you can sit down and decouple the United States economy from the Chinese economy?” he said. “No, I think that was a policy option years ago. I don’t think it’s a … reasonable policy option at this point.”
His office had no immediate comment on Mr Trump’s tweet.
There has been speculation that Mr Trump may have sent the tweet during a meeting at the White House, as a small business owner was discussing how she dealt with the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Trump had gathered some Republican governors and business industry executives to talk about reopening the economy. As one business owner told her tale, Mr Trump was pictured looking at a smartphone.
The light of a phone screen lit his face and suit jacket as the woman spoke, according to reports.
It was not long before a tweet appeared from Mr Trump’s personal account.
Mr Lighthizer said he expected to see more supply chains moving to the United States because of tax and regulatory changes, but also noted that the US-China trade deal would result in significant positive changes and increased Chinese purchases of US goods and services.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Hawaii on Wednesday for a rare high-level face-to-face meeting.