Trump flips on campaign promise to label China a currency manipulator

PHOTO: President Donald Trump meets with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 27, 2017.PlayPablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/file
WATCH President Trump's attacks on China

President Donald Trump publicly reneged Wednesday on a pledge he delivered with consistency throughout his presidential campaign -- his promise to label China a currency manipulator.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the president said the decision came in consideration of talks with China over its role in countering North Korean weapons testing. Trump said that any move to attach the designation could hamper China-U.S. relations. He claimed that, in recent months, China's currency manipulation has halted.

Trump regularly insisted he would confront China over currency manipulation throughout his presidential campaign, ranging back to 2015. The action to "direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator" is still listed as part of "Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter" on his campaign website.

At a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on October 22 in which he laid out plans for his first 100 days in office, Trump included his intended action with the country.

"China is a currency manipulator. What they have done to us by playing currency is very sad," said Trump. "And I don't blame them. They've been very smart. I blame our politicians for letting this take place."

In that week alone, Trump repeated the promise at least two more times. In St. Augustine, Florida, on October 24, the Republican presidential nominee said he has "a great relationship with China."

"I've made a lot of money with China," he said. "But, you know, they know. They told me. That's how they do it. It's the single greatest tool they have -- currency manipulat[ion] -- and they're grand masters."

Five days later, on October 29 in Phoenix, Arizona, he added, "We'll have a great relationship with China. And we are going to stand up to China on its massive currency manipulation because they are beating our companies because of currency manipulation."

Trump penned an op-ed on the subject in the very newspaper to which he made Wednesday's statement, the Wall Street Journal.

In November 2015 he said, "The worst of China’s sins is not its theft of intellectual property. It is the wanton manipulation of China’s currency, robbing Americans of billions of dollars of capital and millions of jobs."

"On day one of a Trump administration, the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," he added. "This designation will trigger a series of actions that will start the process of imposing countervailing duties on cheap Chinese imports, defending American manufacturing and preserving American jobs."

The president's about-face on the topic comes just days after a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week.

At a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday, Trump was asked if he had made a "deal" with Xi on the currency manipulation designation.

"We're going to see," said Trump. "We're going to see about that."

In additional comments to the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Trump also said that he believed the U.S. dollar was rising too much and expressed a desire for the Federal Reserve to maintain low interest rates.

"I think our dollar is getting too strong and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me," Trump told the Journal, "that will hurt ultimately."

As for interest rates -- a topic Trump addressed at the first presidential election on September 26 when he accused Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen of preserving low interest rates for political reasons -- the president now said "I do like a low interest rate policy, I must be honest with you."

He said he was not necessarily looking to replace Yellin when her term expires in 2018 and that it is "very early."