US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that his difficult trade agreement with China is now of secondary importance to the coronavirus. He is threatening new tariffs for Beijing as his administration has instituted retaliatory measures for the outbreak.
Trump's sharp rhetoric towards China reflects his growing frustration with Beijing over the epidemic, which has killed tens of thousands in the United States alone, sparked an economic downturn, and threatened his chances of being re-elected in November.
Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a range of options against China were under discussion, but they cautioned that the efforts were in the early stages. An official told Reuters that the recommendations have not yet reached the level of the Trump national security team or the president.
A source said Washington is walking a tightrope in its relations with Beijing as it imports PPE from Beijing. "There is discussion about how difficult it is to hit China and how to properly calibrate it," without harming a sensitive business deal.
However, Trump has made it clear that his concerns about the role of China in the origin and spread of the coronavirus were currently a priority over his efforts to build a preliminary trade agreement with Beijing that had long dominated dealings with the world's second largest economy.