President Donald Trump Thursday hinted at imposing tariff on China, but ruled out considering cancelling US debt obligations to the country as a punishment for the coronavirus. He said debt cancellation is a "rough game" and may harm the sanctity of the US currency.
"We can do it with tariffs. We can do it other ways even beyond that without having to play that game (cancel US debt obligations). That's a rough game," Trump told reporters in the East Room of the White House when asked if he would consider having the US not pay its debt obligations to China as a punishment for the virus.
Several countries including the US and its allies like Germany, Britain and Australia are holding China responsible for the spread of coronavirus. There have been multiple voices in these countries on ways to seek compensation for the losses inflicted by the pandemic.
"Well, I can do it differently. I can do the same thing but even for more money just by putting on tariffs. So I don't have to do that. You know, it's approximately USD1 trillion, a little bit more as I understand it, $1 trillion. But we can do that in probably a little bit of a more forthright manner," Trump said.
"You start playing those games (debt cancellation), and that's tough. You know, we have the dollar to protect. We want to protect the sanctity of the dollar, the importance of the dollar. It's the greatest currency in the history of the world. It's become stronger. We have a very strong dollar. That's why we're borrowing at zero, zero interest rate," he said.
"You know, you say oh gee, we owe you a certain amount of money; we're going to keep it. But when you start playing that game, you're really hurting the sanctity, the importance of the greatest currency on the earth. But we can do it in other ways. We can do it with tariffs. We can do it other ways even beyond that without having to play that game. That's a rough game," Trump said.
Meanwhile, Congressman Clay Higgins demanded that China be held accountable for the spread of the virus. "The Chinese Communist Party knowingly misled the world on coronavirus. They should be held to account for their deception," he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview to Fox news asserted the same. "We have an obligation to do our best to hold those accountable who have inflicted so much harm, so much damage to the global economy and to the lives of Americans and people all across the world," he said.
"We will, for the moment, focus on the things that help keep people safe, and then there will come a time when not only the United States but I think the entire world will come to understand what took place, and I think in the end the Chinese Communist Party will ultimately be held accountable for what they did," Pompeo said.
"The cost that has been posed on the United States economy not only monetary, but we've had now more than 50,000 people whose lives have been lost. We've got to get the economy cranked back up, but all of this is a direct result of the fact that this virus came out of China.
"The Chinese Communist Party has a special responsibility to explain how this happened, to let the world come in to see what took place," he said in another interview to Simon Conway of Newsradio 1040. "They tell me all the time they want to be our partner, they want to cooperate with us. Reliable partners, reliable countries share information; they open up.
"They don't when a doctor wants to report on what's happening in their hospital, they don't shut them down and tell them you can't talk about that. That's not how reliable partners work, how cooperating countries work. We need the Chinese Communist Party to begin to be a better partner here for lots of reasons, he asserted.