White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday appeared to tell Fox News' "The Story" that President Donald Trump is terminating the China trade deal as intelligence officials grow increasingly certain that the COVID-19 pandemic emerged from a lab in the city of Wuhan.
"It's over," Navarro told host Martha MacCallum, according to a report Monday night on Fox News' website.
"Here's the turning point," he continued. "They came here on Jan. 15 to sign that trade deal, and that was a full two months after they knew the virus was out and about."
By that point, he said, China had already sent hundreds of thousands of people to the U.S., spreading the virus, while America really only began to hear of the pandemic right after the Chinese delegation's departure.
Though the comment seemed definitive, a subsequent clarification by Navarro, reported via Bloomberg, suggested he may have been talking more broadly about strained trust between the U.S. and China.
Said his statement: “My comments have been taken wildly out of context. They had nothing at all to do with the Phase I trade deal, which continues in place. I was simply speaking to the lack of trust we now have of the Chinese Communist Party after they lied about the origins of the China virus and foisted a pandemic upon the world.”
President Trump reaffirmed that there had been no plug pulled on a trade deal when he tweeted Monday night: "The China Trade Deal is fully intact. Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement."
The trade agreement has been aimed at finding a way to ease tensions between the two superpowers and economic titans after a trade war exacerbated by accusations from Washington about currency manipulation and theft of trade secrets.
The administration, while hesitating to pull the plug on talks, has been mulling avenues to possibly punish or seek financial compensation from China for withholding information about the virus. Some experts believe the virus was not born in China's infamous wet markets, where exotic animals are sold for food, but rather in a lab conducting research in Wuhan. China, for its part, has denied the allegations, and while U.S. officials have said they've seen intelligence linking the lab directly to the virus' development, that evidence has remained in the shadows while U.S. China tensions have escalated.
"I think that everybody here inside the perimeter and around this country now understands that China lied, and Americans died," Navarro said Monday on Fox.
Navarro is a noted China hawk and has been one of the sharpest voices in President Donald Trump’s ear urging a stiffer response toward Beijing.
Trump has claimed credit for saving many American lives by closing off travel from China earlier in the pandemic.
CNBC reported stock futures were turning negative following Navarro's statement that the deal was over, implying an opening drop of more than 200 points at the opening bell on Tuesday.
In the original exchange between MacCallum, she asked him: You know, when -- do you think that the president sort of -- I mean, he obviously really wanted to hang onto this trade deal as much as possible. And he wanted them to make good on the promises, because there had been progress made on that trade deal, but given everything that’s happened and all the things you just listed, is that over?
Navarro's response? "It’s over. Yes."
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.
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