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Trump refuses to discuss US-China strategy at private business dinner

President Donald Trump declined to discuss his strategy for dealing with China at a private business dinner with CEOs on Tuesday night, as U.S.-China trade tensions escalate.

The president said “he wouldn’t go there” after he was asked about how he would manage U.S.-China relations going forward as the two economic giants spar on trade policy, according to an executive who attended the dinner at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The executive asked not to be named.

Trump has slapped tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods so far, after the Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that it planned to impose a 25 percent tariff on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods. Those tariffs will go into effect Aug. 23. A slew of tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods went into effect in July. China has responded by announcing its own set of retaliatory tariffs.

The executive said the conversation at Tuesday night’s dinner was open-ended and did not have a formal policy agenda. The president discussed his track record on the economy, including taxes and growth, and said it remained his focus.

The dinner felt like a “first stab” at re-engagement, the executive said, following the disbanding of two of Trump’s business advisory councils last August. Those councils dissolved in the wake of controversial comments from the president after a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A number of CEOs who were on those advisory councils attended Tuesday night’s dinner.

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