President Trump said he doesn't “blame” China for the “unfair” relationship the U.S. has with China in regards to commerce.
"This relationship is something which we are working very hard to make a fair and reciprocal one," Trump said at a signing ceremony with business executives in China, with Chinese President Xi Jinping looking on. "Trade between China and the United States has not been — over the last many many years — a very fair one for us."
Trump noted the U.S.’s annual trade deficit with China, calling the relationship a “very one-sided and an unfair one," and criticized past administrations for not doing more to reduce the trade deficit.
"But, but, I don't blame China," Trump added to scattered applause in the room. "After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit."
Trump's comments come after he has long griped about the U.S.-China trade dynamic, calling China a "currency manipulator" during the campaign. He also said in May 2016 that China was being allowed to "rape" the U.S. in terms of trade.
Xi said it is "natural" for his country and the U.S. to sometimes disagree but said they must work to resolve their differences, according to a press pool report.
Other issues, like cooperation in dealing with an aggressive North Korea, were also brought up.
Trump is in China as part of a nearly two-week tour through Asia. Trump is scheduled to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam and a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Philippines during the trip.