SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ, France — President Donald Trump said Sunday he could declare the escalating U.S.-China trade war as a national emergency if he wanted to.
"In many ways this is an emergency," Trump said at the G-7 leaders meeting of the ongoing trade battle between the world's top two economies.
"I could declare a national emergency, I think when they steal and take out and intellectual property theft anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion a year and when we have a total lost of almost a trillion dollars a year for many years," Trump said, adding that he had no plan right now to call for a national emergency.
"Actually we are getting along very well with China right now, we are talking. I think they want to make a deal much more than I do. I'm getting a lot of money in tariffs its coming in by the billions. We've never gotten 10 cents from China, so we will see what happens."
Trump's comments come as he met with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson kicking off Group of 7 meetings in the French seaside town of Biarritz.
Clouding the G-7 gathering, which represents the world's major industrial economies, are the tit-for-tat tariffs between Washington and Beijing.
On Friday, Trump said he would raise existing duties on $250 billion in Chinese products to 30% from 25% on Oct. 1. What's more, tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods, which start to take effect on Sept. 1, will now be 15% instead of 10%.
When Trump was asked on Sunday if he had second thoughts about Friday's move to escalate the trade war with China, he said "Yup," adding: "I have second thoughts about everything."
Hours later, the White House issued a statement saying that Trump meant to say that he wished he had raised tariffs on Beijing even higher.
"His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative - because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher," White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham wrote in a statement.
During the bilateral with Johnson, Trump dismissed concerns that leaders at the G-7 and other U.S. allies would pressure him in ending the trade war with China.
"I think they respect the trade war, it has to happen. China has been, well I can only speak for the United States, I can't say what they are doing to the U.K. and other places, but from the standpoint of the United States what they've done is outrageous that presidents and administrations allowed them to get away with taking hundreds of billions of dollars out every year and putting it into China," Trump said.
"Our country is doing really well, we had horrible trade deals and I'm straightening them out. The biggest one by far is China," he added.
This article was updated to include a White House statement.