After softening his tone while speaking in China on Thursday, President Donald Trump ramped up his rhetoric about "unfair" trade practices, returning to the politician who ran on an "America first" platform.
"From this day forward we will compete on a fair and equal basis," Trump told a group of CEOs at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Vietnam, according to pool reports. "We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore. I am always going to put America first."
Trump said that he talked "openly and directly" with Chinese President Xi Jinping "about China’s unfair trade practices and the enormous trade deficits they have produced with the United States."
"What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty, and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible," Trump said.
He added, "The current trade imbalance is not acceptable. I do not blame China or any other country, of which there are many, for taking advantage of the United States on trade."
While he didn't explicitly blame China by name, he certainly made it clear that he was not pleased with trade in the U.S.
"We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and we will not tolerate them," Trump said. "We adhered to WTO principles on protecting intellectual property and ensuring fair and equal market access. They engaged in product dumping, subsidized goods, currency manipulation, and predatory industrial policies."
He continued: "Jobs, factories, and industries were stripped out of the United States and out of many countries in addition. And many opportunities for mutually beneficial investments were lost because people could not trust the system."
The rhetoric comes as Trump has frequently shifted his tone on trade, depending on his audience. Trump insisted on not pressing China on their trade practices while in the country this week, but railed against the nation when he wasn't engaging with them directly.
On Thursday, Trump didn't blame the China for their practices during his visit. "After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit," he said.
Over the last year, Trump railed against China's trade practices, which became a major part of his policy platform. But he immediately calmed his views upon reaching office, because he said it would help solve the potential crisis with North Korea. His shift in tone may also have been because he was praised — or, as press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put it, "treated with great respect."