In exchange, China pledged to buy, over two years, at least US$200 billion more in American goods and services than it did in 2017, including about US$40 billion in agricultural goods.
At Sunday evening’s town hall, Trump also addressed the question about the origin of the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 3.5 million people and killed more than 245,000 around the world.
He stayed away from the allegation – which scientists have described as highly unlikely – that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab but suggested China had intentionally let the virus spread beyond its borders.
“Personally I think [China] made a horrible mistake. They tried to cover it up. It’s really like [they were] trying to put out a fire. They couldn’t put out the fire,” Trump said.
“What China really treated the world badly on was, they stopped people going into China, but they didn’t stop people going into the USA and all over the world,” he said. “You couldn’t fly out of Wuhan to go to Beijing and or to any place in China… you could fly out of Wuhan, where the primary problem was, to different parts of the world. What’s that all about?”
Trump said a “case could be made, that China said, ‘hey, look, this is going to have a huge impact on China, we might as well let the rest of the world [have the problem too]’.” He also said “a very strong report” would be delivered soon “as to exactly what we think happened. And I think it’ll be very conclusive”.
The administration is now pursuing investigations about the origins of the coronavirus, making the Wuhan Institute of Virology the centre of a number of conspiracy theories. Analysts have recently said Trump could wield it as a weapon to deflect attention from his China-friendly comments earlier in the outbreak if evidence surfaced proving such a theory.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan. “I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
Meanwhile, the US is formulating a raft of measures to hold China responsible for the pandemic’s damage that includes sanctions, cancelling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies.
Trump’s super PAC released a TV ad campaign in April painting Joe Biden as soft on China. The Biden campaign rebutted in videos, hitting Trump for eliminating US pandemic preparedness resources and for praising China’s “efforts and transparency” in its virus response.