NEW YORK — President Donald Trump renewed his trade attack on China, calling the nation "cheaters" though he blamed the situation on past U.S. leaders.
Trump spoke Tuesday at the Economic Club of New York.
"Since China's entrance into the World Trade Organization in 2001, no one has manipulated better or taken advantage of the United States more," Trump said. "I will not say the word 'cheated,' but nobody's cheated better than China, I will say that."
The remarks break a period of relative peace between the two sides, who have been looking to hammer out the first phase of an agreement that would ease some tariffs. Details of a potential deal remain in flux, with the U.S. pushing for more open markets and an elimination of intellectual property theft, while China wants Washington to drop some $250 billion in tariffs imposed since the impasse began.
Rather than lay the blame on China, though, Trump said that previous leaders who negotiated trade deals allowed manipulation of the agreements, with results that hurt American workers, particularly those in the manufacturing industry.
The president recalled a speech he gave during which he was criticizing the country for its economic practices.
"I said, 'This is not going over well.' It was in Beijing, this massive hall," Trump said. "But I said I don't blame China, I blame China. Then I realized it's true."
China was not alone in taking heat from the president. Trump also singled out the European Union for unfair trade practices.
"Many countries charge us extraordinarily high tariffs or create impossible trade barriers," he said. "And I'll be honest, the European Union, very, very difficult. The barriers they have up are terrible, in many ways worse than China."