President Donald Trump on Friday appeared to play down expectations about a meeting with Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit later this month, saying "it doesn't matter" if the Chinese president attends.
"If he shows up, good, if he doesn't — in the meantime, we're taking in billions of dollars a month [in tariffs] from China," Trump said in a 50-minute telephone interview on Fox News' "Fox & Friends."
Trump's remarks Friday morning seemed to clash with comments he made just a few days earlier on CNBC.
In that interview Monday, the president vowed to immediately slap tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports if Xi didn't attend the G-20 summit, which is scheduled for June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan.
Neither the White House nor the Council of Economic Advisors immediately responded to CNBC's requests for comment on the president's latest remarks.
Tariffs are typically paid by the entities that import the shipments. Tariff defenders, including White House trade advisor and China hawk Peter Navarro, argue that the exporting companies are the ones punished.
"So our people are not paying — you know there's this big thing about tariffs, 'Oh, our people pay' -- it's a lot of nonsense. You know what happens, really? Companies move back," Trump told Fox.
In May, Trump increased tariffs on Chinese imports by $200 billion after trade negotiations between the two economic superpowers fell apart.
The possible bilateral meeting at the G-20 summit was seen by current and former Trump administration officials as a high-stakes stepping stone on the path toward regaining the ground lost with China and eventually securing a deal.
"There won't be a deal at the G-20," Clete Willems, a former top Trump trade advisor, said in an interview Tuesday with CNBC's Kayla Tausche. But a Trump-Xi meeting at the summit could "catalyze a productive period of negotiations where the deal closes."