NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump praised the use of tariffs Monday, suggesting that threatening them has helped Washington win beneficial terms in trade talks with countries like South Korea, Japan and Canada. He also warned that more levies could be in store for countries like China unless the U.S. is offered favorable treatment.
At his first news conference since the completion Sunday night of a trilateral agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the president spoke at length about the uses of tariffs.
"Because of the power of tariffs and the power that we have with tariffs, we, in many cases, won't even have to use them," Trump said. "That's how powerful and how good they are."
He credited tariffs for Washington's success in drawing Tokyo into bilateral negotiations, suggesting that his administration told the Japanese side that "you don't have to negotiate, but we're going to put a very, very substantial tax on your cars if you don't."
"And we're totally prepared to do that if they don't negotiate, but Japan is wanting to negotiate," Trump said, stating that under the threat of auto tariffs, Tokyo had "called about three weeks ago" to suggest a compromise. "He's a terrific man," Trump said of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The president also criticized countries that levy tariffs against the U.S., but suggested that they have begun lowering their barriers in response to his tough stance. Trump raised the example of India, which he described as the "tariff king," but which he says has reached out to begin negotiations on a deal.
It is a privilege for countries like China and Japan, as well as the European Union, to do business with the U.S., Trump said, asserting: "Every country -- it's a privilege for them to come in and attack the piggy bank."
On China, Trump dangled the threat of an additional $267 billion worth of levies against Chinese goods, as he has previously said, but sent mixed messages about whether the U.S. was ready to go back to talks.
"China wants to talk, very badly. And I said, frankly, it's too early to talk. Can't talk now," Trump said.
He suggested that negotiations would not resume soon given how long the trade deficit has been in place and noting the U.S. has "a lot of catching up to do with China." But he left a door open, saying, "China wants to talk, and we want to talk to them."
Trump also suggested that Washington would like China's support in dealing with North Korea.
"Hopefully we can make a great deal with China, a fair deal, and a reciprocal deal, but a great deal," the president said. "We're using tariffs very successfully to negotiate, and if we're unable to make a fair deal then we'll use tariffs."
Speaking alongside Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the new agreement with Canada on Sunday will serve as "a template for our trade agreements under the Trump administration in the future."
Lighthizer spoke of the "three pillars" behind that template.
"The first pillar is fairness," he said, pointing to securing greater market access for American farmers and ranchers, as well as imposing labor standards that will level the playing field for U.S. workers.
The second pillar consists of provisions on digital trade, intellectual property and financial services, which are "designed to protect our competitive edge."
The third pillar aims to eliminate unfair trade practices, Lighthizer said, "including strong new disciplines on state-owned enterprises, on currency manipulation, relations with nonmarket economies and much, much more."
All three are expected to be featured prominently in trade discussions with China and Japan.