Mr. Trump’s remarks probably indicated an effort to gain leverage during the last two weeks before a Dec. 15 deadline for new tariffs on consumer goods to take effect, rather than signaling a fundamental breakdown in talks, said U.S. officials and close allies of Mr. Trump.
The U.S. side points to the recent involvement of White House adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, as evidence that the talks are nearing conclusion. Mr. Kushner acts as a kind of interpreter of what Mr. Trump would find acceptable in a deal and has worked well with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s lead negotiator, and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tianka.
“Ultimately, the president is rewarded in the ballot box by getting a deal done,” said Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s former communications director. “He’s not rewarded in the ballot box by having a trade fight with China.” But Mr. Trump needs to make sure that the Chinese come through with a good offer before he approves a deal, Mr. Miller said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Chinese officials have said the trade negotiations are still on track. Beijing has strong incentives to move ahead with the trade deal, which could help alleviate pressure on the country’s weakening economy.
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”
China has criticized the legislation as an infringement on its internal affairs and evidence the U.S. is encouraging the antigovernment protests that have shaken Hong Kong for about six months. The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad about the bill, and a spokesman has said Beijing will take resolute measures to counter the act if it becomes law.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. It requires the secretary of state to certify annually that Hong Kong is independent enough from Beijing to retain favored trading status with the U.S. It also allows the U.S. to impose sanctions and travel restrictions on individuals who commit human-rights violations in Hong Kong.
The bill passed Congress with veto-proof majorities. Just one lawmaker opposed the measure in the House, and it won unanimous approval in the Senate.