Tariff on China for mishandling virus outbreak 'certainly an option': Trump

US President Donald Trump at The White House | Photo: AP

US President Donald Trump on Friday reiterated that imposing an additional tariff on China for allegedly mishandling the coronavirus outbreak was "certainly an option". He said China "mishandled the situation" after the coronavirus outbreak in its Wuhan city, but refrained from giving a definitive answer on retaliatory measures against the Asian giant.

Trump was responding to a question about his remarks a day earlier in which he had indicated imposing tariff on China as a punishment for the spread of coronavirus.

"It's certainly an option. It's certainly an option," Trump said but did not give a timeline for this.

"We're going to see what happens. A lot of things are happening with respect to China. We're not happy, obviously, with what happened. This is a bad situation all over the world, 182 countries. But we'll be having a lot to say about that," he said in response to a question.

The deadly coronavirus that was first reported in China's Wuhan city in mid-November has so far killed more than 2,35,000 people globally, including 64,000 Americans, and has infected 3.3 million across the world.

In an interview to Buck Sexton of The Buck Sexton Show, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of being non transparent on the issue of coronavirus.

"They've claimed that they have been transparent, but of course, at least as of a day or two ago, we still didn't actually have a sample of the virus. We were still working to try to understand what the scope of the risk was," he said.

Pompeo said China claimed it didn't know where the coronavirus came from, but those inside China, who tried to talk about the virus, were denied access. They were told "don't talk about that, stop it" and discussions were banned early on, he added.

"That's not the way partners work, reliable partners work. Reliable partners share. They open up, especially when there's trouble. They go overboard to make sure everybody can understand how it came to be. That's all we've asked for," the secretary of state said.

"We hope that the Chinese Communist Party will see their way clear to allow the world to understand how the heck this virus got out of Wuhan, China, and spread all across the world," he said.

"We need responsibility and accountability for this outbreak," Pompeo said.

He said it was really important to understand what happened in China during the virus outbreak to make sure something like this does not happen again.

"There are multiple labs inside of China and our understanding of what takes place there is pretty limited, and there have been examples of leaks from those labs before," Pompeo said.

He said the coronavirus pandemic has been an expensive and costly calamity and the US needs to do its part but there is a responsibility on Chinese Communist Party to make sure something like this does not happen again.

"We have seen the narrative which is that this virus began and the Chinese Communist Party knew about it, didn't alert the world to it in a timely fashion," Pompeo said.

He further said the whole world world has a right to know what happened in China during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump had hinted at using tariff as a tool to punish China for mishandling the virus outbreak and the next day the markets went down.

The markets are down substantially today after the President yesterday suggested in the East Room that he might use tariffs to punish China over the coronavirus. Is there any serious consideration being given to putting new tariffs on China or was the President just spitballing yesterday? the new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked during her maiden press conference.

"I won't get ahead of any announcements from the President, but I will echo the President's displeasure with China. It's no secret that China mishandled this situation," McEnany told reporters.

"Just a few examples for you; they did not share the genetic sequence until a professor in Shanghai did so on his own. The very next day China shut down his lab for quote rectification. They slow-walked information on human to human transmission alongside the World Health Organization and didn't let US investigators in at a very important time," she said.

"So, we take displeasure with China's actions, but I certainly won't get out of the president with those announcements. Again, when it comes to retaliatory measures, I will not get ahead of the president on that," McEnany asserted.

The White House Press Secretary said the US continues to have very limited and dubious data from China and the current assessments indicated that Trump's statement, that coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, is consistent with what some analysts believe is the epicenter of where the virus began.

On Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) had said in a statement that the Intelligence Community concurs with the wide scientific consensus that "the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified".

Responding to a question on the ODNI's statement, McEnany said Let me remind everyone intelligence is just an estimate essentially, and it's up to policymakers to decide what to do with that intelligence. In this case, the policymaker is the President of the United States and he will make a decision at the right time.

She alleged that there's no secret that China stopped US investigators from coming in.

It was of paramount importance that we got into China in an expedited fashion, and that didn't happen. With respect to the World Health Organization, they have some questions of their own to answer, the press secretary said.

She said the United States, as the president has emphasized, provides about $400 million to $500 million per year to the WHO compared to China at roughly $40 million a year, but yet "WHO appears to have a very clear China bias.

I mean, look at this timeline and it's really damning for the WHO when you just consider the fact that on December 31, you had Taiwanese officials warning about human to human transmission and the WHO did not make that public. On January 9 the WHO repeated China's claim that the virus 'does not transmit readily between people'. That was quite apparently false, McEnany said.

On January 14, the WHO again repeated China's talking points about no human to human transmission. They praised China's leadership on 22 January. On the 23rd, they said, and this is incredible, the pandemic didn't represent a public health emergency of international concern, she said.

And even on February 29, you had the WHO saying that when the coronavirus was spreading around the world, they chose to put, excuse me, political correctness first by opposing lifesaving travel restrictions."

"The travel restrictions this president put in place, the travel restrictions that Dr. Fauci praised as saving lives and you have the World Health Organization opposing a measure that saved American lives. That's unacceptable, especially at a time when the US was providing $400 to 500 million, the White House Press Secretary said.

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