US President Donald Trump(L)walks next to new national security advisor Robert O’Brien on September 18, 2019 at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images
U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Saturday that the so-called phase one trade deal with China could happen by the end of the year, and emphasized that President Trump would not ignore protests underway in Hong Kong.
“We were hoping to have (a phase 1) deal done by the end of the year. I still think that’s possible,” O’Brien told reporters at a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“At the same time, we’re not going to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Hong Kong or what’s happening in the South China Sea, or other areas of the world where we’re concerned about China’s activity,” he said.
Hong Kong has been crippled by widespread anti-government demonstrations since June. The city is now preparing for local elections on Sunday following several weeks of the most violent clashes between protesters and police yet.
Both chambers of Congress recently passed a pro-Hong Kong rights bill amid crackdowns on the protests. China’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the passage of the bill, which comes as Trump pushes for a China trade victory to promote during his 2020 re-election bid.
Trump said on Friday that the long-negotiated trade deal is potentially very close, despite reports that an agreement may not be reached until next year.
The president has refused to commit to signing the legislation in support of the pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, saying that he supported demonstrators but that China President Xi Jinping was his friend.
“I stand with Hong Kong,” he said during an interview on “Fox & Friends.” “I stand with freedom. I stand with all of the things we want to do. But we’re also in the process of making the largest trade deal in history.”
Even if Trump doesn’t sign the human rights bill, it will still likely pass into law.
Trump also said that he isn’t “anxious” to complete the deal and claimed that the U.S. is benefiting from the tariffs placed on Chinese imports. The next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese products is set for Dec. 15.