Trump: US to sanc­tion China over Hong Kong

Pres­i­dent crit­i­cizes Bi­den, Obama poli­cies

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tribut­ing: Ni­cholas Wu, Deirdre Sh­es­green John Fritze and David Jack­son

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Donald Trump said Tues­day he signed leg­is­la­tion that would slap sanc­tions on Chi­nese of­fi­cials who un­der­mine the au­ton­omy of Hong Kong, the lat­est step in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­creas­ingly con­fronta­tional pos­ture to­ward Bei­jing.

But Trump’s of­fi­cial re­marks in the Rose Gar­den quickly turned po­lit­i­cal as he of­fered an ex­tended cri­tique of Joe Bi­den, the pre­sump­tive Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s trade poli­cies.

“If we lis­tened to Joe Bi­den, hun­dreds of thou­sands of ad­di­tional lives would have been lost” to the coro­n­avirus, Trump claimed with­out ev­i­dence.

Trump’s re­marks, which fo­cused far more on Bi­den than on Hong Kong, came as the pres­i­dent has slid in na­tional polling and has seen slip­ping sup­port in bat­tle­ground states he won in 2016, such as Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia.

The pres­i­dent, who made trade with China a cen­ter­piece of his 2016 cam­paign, ar­gued that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “freely al­lowed China to pil­lage our fac­to­ries.” Bi­den aides did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Trump’s re­marks were the lat­est in­stance in which the pres­i­dent has veered into pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics dur­ing an of­fi­cial event.

“I can’t be­lieve this,” po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Stu­art Rothen­berg posted on Twit­ter. “This is a cam­paign event from the White House.”

U.S. re­la­tions with China have de­te­ri­o­rated as Trump has ham­mered at Bei­jing’s re­sponse to the coro­n­avirus, re­peat­edly as­sert­ing China failed to warn the world about the sever­ity of the disease that ex­perts say orig­i­nated in Wuhan. The virus has added a new layer of ten­sions on top of the trade war that erupted in 2018.

Trump has claimed his “phase one” trade agree­ment with China an­nounced in Jan­uary re­mains in place, though the coun­try is fall­ing short of its goals to pur­chase U.S. goods and Wash­ing­ton has left in place sanc­tions on bil­lions of dol­lars in Chi­nese goods.

The pres­i­dent said he also signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der end­ing pref­er­en­tial trade treatment for Hong Kong.

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