NOEL KING, HOST:
President Trump says there is no agreement with China to ease U.S. tariffs.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, they'd like to have a rollback. I haven't agreed to anything. China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback 'cause they know I won't do it. But we're getting along very well with China. They want to make a deal. Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do.
KING: That was the president earlier this morning outside the White House. Yesterday, China's commerce ministry reported that an initial deal had been struck between the two countries. Now, of course, the president says that was not true. Earlier I spoke to White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.
PETER NAVARRO: I can confirm that there is no agreement to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of signing a phase-one deal. That did come right out of the ministry of propaganda, as it were, in China - was widely misreported in the press.
KING: Let's talk about that. If there's no deal to roll back tariffs, why is China saying there is? You reference propaganda. What do you think is going on here?
NAVARRO: Well, somebody joked (ph) to me yesterday that the real negotiations with China don't really start until you have a handshake deal - is what we had in October. Basically, they're trying to renegotiate or retrade the October deal, and I don't fault them for it. That's kind of what they do. But the reality is that what is on the table is there's the tariffs coming in December - December 15. We would be willing, I think - again, it's up to the president - to postpone those tariffs.
NAVARRO: But let's remember - yeah, the December 15 one but not rollback any existing tariffs. That's the fine distinction here. Look, the tariffs are really a necessary defense against China's economic aggression against the United States. They are also the only insurance policy we have that China will come to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith. And if you give away any of the existing tariffs, you run the very real risk that you'll never get to phase two or three. And I think your listeners need to understand that there's seven things we're trying to get done, and the phase one only gets about two of them done.
KING: I want to ask you about the possibility that the U.S. would back off on the tariffs that are scheduled for December 15. Now, that's $160 billion of tariffs on Chinese products, mostly on consumer electronics. You're saying maybe the U.S. would not do that, would not put tariffs on those products. Why? Why is that?
NAVARRO: Well, we have tariffs on existing products. The additional tariffs that we would be - put in place are - would be a goodwill gesture to get us to phase two or three. Again, the idea would be to maybe wait a little while. But, you know, it's not my place here to negotiate in public, which is what the Chinese were doing yesterday. I think what's important for the American people to understand is that China is actively engaged in economic regression. They commit what I call the seven deadly sins. It's the forced technology transfer...
KING: We don't have time for all seven - I'm so sorry - too short an interview. Although I do know...
NAVARRO: Just so the American people understand, we are getting hammered by China. And I think they do. There's really broad support from American people on President Trump's tough stand on China, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. That's rare these days.
KING: Yeah. Yeah, it is. There is a wrinkle here, though, for the president. We have had in this country three straight months of manufacturing contraction. That is unusual. We've had job losses in manufacturing in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are states that the president wants to win. Manufacturers openly blame the trade war. The president must have people telling him it's time to move on this, right? I would assume.
NAVARRO: So let me dispute all of what you're saying there. Basically...
KING: All of what I'm saying is in the numbers. Just - I - yes, go ahead and dispute but (laughter) lots of evidence.
NAVARRO: During the Obama O'Biden (ph) years, they lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs. We've added 500 - we've added...
KING: Sure, but we're talking about 2019.
NAVARRO: You want the numbers - we've added 500,000 manufacturing jobs. The unemployment rate is the lowest since it's been since a man walked on the moon. Wages are rising. Life's good for America. It's better than it was during the previous administration. I, myself, want to work every single day trying to create good manufacturing jobs for the real mobility of this country, people who work with their hands. President Trump's doing a great job in that.
And I can take you through Marinette, Wis., Oshkosh, Wis., Lima, Ohio, York, Pa., Greenville, S.C. I'll take you there. We'll go on a tour. I'll show you all the good manufacturing jobs we are creating.
KING: I might take you up on that, Mr. Navarro, while noting that job losses in those states are still occurring.
NAVARRO: I'd be happy to do the NPR manufacturing tour (laughter).
KING: All right. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, thank you so much for taking the time. We really appreciate it.
NAVARRO: Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.