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2020 presidential candidate John Hickenlooper: China was already 'at the table' before Trump's risky tariff war

Key Points
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 2020 presidential candidate, says President Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods don't deserve any credit for bringing Beijing to the negotiating table.
  • "They were at the table," Hickenlooper tells CNBC. "They were ready to negotiate, and there was a give-and-take."
  • Hickenlooper says he doesn't think "anyone's really taking into account" the risk of alienating U.S. allies as a result of a trade war.
VIDEO1:3101:31
Hickenlooper: China already 'at the table' before tariffs

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 2020 presidential candidate, said Thursday that President Donald Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods don't deserve any credit for bringing Beijing to the negotiating table.

Hickenlooper, one of the nearly two dozen Democrats vying for the chance to unseat Trump in the 2020 election, said that China had been willing to negotiate before Trump resorted to slapping import duties on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods.

"They were at the table," Hickenlooper said of China on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

"They were ready to negotiate, and there was a give-and-take," Hickenlooper added, while noting that "maybe we weren't going as fast we wanted."

Rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China, long waged behind closed doors, appeared to boil over in mid-May, with both sides digging in their heels on points of disagreement. Trump claimed Thursday that China "broke the deal," though he also said that country "would love to make a deal" with the U.S.

Trump, who has long argued that the U.S. will ultimately win a trade war with China, said the recently hiked tariffs on Chinese goods "are having a devastating effect on China."

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Trump: China would love to make a trade deal with the US

Hickenlooper disagreed and said he doesn't think "anyone's really taking into account" the risk of alienating U.S. allies as a result of a trade war.

"In the same way that our policies toward Iran ... isolate them again, now some of our allies are finding different ways to trade so they're not using U.S. dollars as a medium for trade," Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper said he was "certainly not going to argue that China didn't cheat on international agreements" by stealing intellectual property as the U.S. has long alleged. "You can't let that go on," he said.

But "the risk here is pretty darn high," he added.

"When you look at some of these electronics companies and how they're having to rebuild their supply chains because of these tariffs, these are ... supply chains that were designed to create jobs in the United States," Hickenlooper said. "And now those jobs are probably moving away, moving out of the country forever."