LONDON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday it might be better to wait until after the 2020 election to strike a trade deal with China.
"In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal, but they want to make a deal now and we will see whether or not the deal is going to be right," Trump told reporters in London, where he is attending the NATO summit. The U.S. general election is set to take place next November.
In reaction to the comments, Dow futures lost over 100 points on Tuesday morning and turned negative as traders digested the increased likelihood of a delay to any deal.
When asked if he had a deadline for the deal, Trump added: "I have no deadline, no.'
Trump did not specify whether he was commenting on a complete trade deal between the world's two largest economies or his recently touted "phase one" agreement.
Washington and Beijing have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of each other's goods since the start of 2018, battering financial markets and souring business and consumer sentiment. The next tariff deadline is Dec. 15. If the two sides cannot reach a deal by then, additional U.S. levies on Chinese exports will go into effect. Targeted products include Chinese-made laptops and smartphones.
Criticizing previous U.S. administrations, Trump claimed China had been "ripping off the United States for many, many years," and this had been done to a "lack of leadership."
Trump said the trade deal with China was dependent only on one thing — whether he himself wanted to make it.
"We are doing very well with China right now, and we can do even better with the flick of a pen," Trump said, before claiming that China, in turn, was "having the worst year by far in 57 years."
Trump said after China had targeted U.S. farmers, his administration decided to dole out $28 billion over a two-year period to make sure the agriculture sector wasn't hit in the pocket. "That got them whole," Trump claimed.
—CNBC's Sam Meredith and Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this article.