China trade deal likely despite calls for tariffs on goods, says Trump

The US president said he expected to keep a 25 per cent tariff on European light trucks amid ongoing talks with the EU

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 15, 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks on border security from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.  President Donald Trump on March 18, 2019 complained that he is being blamed by journalists for the massacre of 50 people in attacks on two mosques in New Zealand."The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand," Trump told his more than 59 million followers on Twitter."They will have to work very hard to prove that one," he tweeted. "So Ridiculous!"
 / AFP / Nicholas Kamm

US President Donald Trump said trade negotiations with China were progressing and a final agreement "will probably happen," adding that his call for tariffs to remain on Chinese imported goods for some time did not mean talks were in trouble.

Mr Trump, in a television interview aired on Friday, also said he expected to keep a 25 per cent tariff on European light trucks amid separate ongoing trade talks with the European Union, but that companies could avoid it by building factories in the United States.

The Trump administration is engaged in ongoing trade talks with both the European Union and China as part of the Republican president's "America First" agenda. Top US officials are headed to Beijing in coming days, with a summit possible between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to seal any final deal.

"The European Union ... frankly, treats us as badly as China," Mr Trump told Fox Business Network.

"Our deal is coming along very well. We'll see what happens," Mr Trump said regarding China. "I think the deal will probably happen. I think they need it very badly."

Asked about his remarks earlier this week about US tariffs on Chinese goods staying in place for a period of time and whether that meant there was a snag in the negotiations, Mr Trump said, "No, not at all."

Mr Trump then segued to the European auto sector, including trucks. "We get a 25 per cent tariff on that segment - that's our best segment by far. And yes, we will absolutely be able to keep it - not only keep it going, I really think we have tremendous potential," he told the network in the interview, which was taped on Thursday.

"I’ll tell you what the end game is. They’ll build their plants in the United States and they have no tariffs," Mr Trump added. Then, asked if he would agree to zero tariffs, he said: "I would do it for certain products, but I wouldn’t do it for cars."

Shares of German automaker Daimler jumped briefly after the interview.

The United States in July agreed not to hit EU car imports with extra tariffs while the Washington and Brussels sought to improve economic ties, but the US ambassador to the EU on Thursday said Europe was falling short in trade talks.

Additionally, the US Commerce Department has given the White House a report regarding the legal basis to impose steep tariffs on cars on national security grounds.

Asked if autos and auto parts posed a security risk, Mr Trump said: "well, no."

"What poses a national security risk is our balance sheet. We have to have -- we need a strong balance sheet. Otherwise, you don’t have national security," Trump added. "We’re straightening it out."

Separately, Mr Trump also told Fox that if U.S. lawmakers do not pass his new deal to supersede the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, he might "go pre-NAFTA" but gave no other details.

The leaders of the three countries last year reached a deal to replace NAFTA with the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But it must be approved by the US Congress, which is split between Mr Trump's fellow Republicans, who control the Senate, and Democrats, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives and have been cool to the new pact.