President Donald Trump described the prospect of the US falling into recession as “irrelevant” on Tuesday, and he defended his decision to wage a trade war with China.
During a White House visit by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump was asked about concerns that his trade war with China was dragging down the US economy.
“Somebody had to take China on,” Trump replied. “And it’s about time, whether it’s good for our country, or bad for our country short term.
“Long term, it’s imperative that somebody does this because our country cannot continue to pay China $500 billion because stupid people are running it.
“I don’t mind this question. Whether it’s good or bad, the short term is irrelevant. We have to solve the problem with China because they’re taking out $500 billion a year plus. And that doesn’t include intellectual-property theft and other things.”
Reframing the reporter’s question, he continued: “And also, national security. So I am doing this whether it’s good or bad for your statement about, ‘OK, will we fall into a recession for two months?’
“The fact is, somebody had to take China on. My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t take China on. But I like doing it because I have to do it.”
The president seemed to accept that his policies could cause the US economic pain, this marks a sharp departure from his remarks in recent days, in which he has boasted of the strength of the US economy and accused the media and political opponents of skewing economic data as precipitating a recession to help damage his chances of reelection in 2020.
Trump’s remarks were repeated by his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. In comments to GOP donors at an event in Washington on Tuesday, Mulvaney said that if the US were to face a recession, it would be “moderate and short.”
White House officials had previously insisted that perceived recession indicators were being exaggerated and that the prospects for the economy remained good.
On Tuesday, Trump said that he did not think a recession was on its way but acknowledged that payroll tax cuts were among measures being considered should the US economic situation get worse.
“We’re very far from a recession,” Trump said. “In fact, if the Fed would do its job, I think we’d have a tremendous spurt of growth, a tremendous spurt.”
Some economists have pointed to Trump’s trade war with China as among the factors responsible for the economic instability, placing pressure on him to reach a trade deal with Beijing.