Trump says pandemic clouds U.S.-China trade deal

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was very disappointed in China over its failure to contain the novel coronavirus, saying the worldwide pandemic cast a pall over his trade deal with Beijing.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump departs on travel to the Camp David presidential retreat from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 1, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, in December and was spreading silently as the United States and China signed a Phase 1 trade deal hailed by the Republican president as a major achievement.

“I’m very disappointed in China,” Trump said in an interview broadcast on Fox Business Network.

“They should have never let this happen. So I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry and the plague came over. And it doesn’t feel the same to me,” he said.

The U.S. president’s pique extended to Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom, Trump says repeatedly, he has a good relationship. “But I just – right now I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to speak to him,” Trump said.

Under the Phase 1 deal signed in January, Beijing pledged to buy at least $200 billion in additional U.S. goods and services over two years while Washington agreed to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods in stages.

A Chinese state-run newspaper has reported that some government advisers in Beijing were urging fresh talks and possibly invalidating the agreement.

Trump said again he was not interested in renegotiating.

While U.S. intelligence agencies said the virus did not appear to be man-made or genetically modified, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said early in May there is “a significant amount of evidence” it came from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Pompeo’s comments followed Trump’s assertion on April 30 that he was confident the virus may have originated in a Chinese virology laboratory. In April, the World Health Organization said all available evidence suggested the virus originated in bats and was not manipulated or constructed in a lab.

In the Fox Business interview, which was taped on Wednesday, Trump focused more on China’s response to the outbreak than on its origin.

“We have a lot of information, and it’s not good. Whether it came from the lab or came from the bats, it all came from China, and they should have stopped it. They could have stopped it, at the source,” he said.

“It got out of control.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Paul Simao

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