WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and his top economic advisers on Sunday sought to allay fears of a possible recession and of a prolonged trade war with China, asserting that the White House is optimistic about the direction of the American economy.
Trump, speaking to reporters in New Jersey before heading back to Washington, said "I don't see a recession" when asked about key economic indicators that signaled the possibility of an economic downturn.
The president insisted the U.S. was not alone in facing the prospect of economic uncertainty, before quickly backing down on his assessment.
“I don’t see a recession. I mean the world is in a recession right now, although that’s too big a statement," Trump said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, appearing on “Fox News Sunday” hours before Trump spoke, issued a similar line, saying he did not foresee the country heading to a recession despite a slowdown in manufacturing and a record day of stock losses last week.
Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, told CNN’s “State of the Union” he believed the state of the economy remained “very strong” and defended Trump’s decision to delay recently announced tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Both advisers made the rounds on the Sunday morning political talk shows days after the Dow Jones industrial average had its worst performing day of the year, dropping 800 points. The drop came in response to rare activity in the bond market that occurred on Wednesday, known as the yield curve inversion, which has previously been a telltale indicator of a looming recession.
“We had some blockbuster retail sales [and] consumer numbers toward the back end of last week. Some really blockbuster numbers," Kudlow said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And in fact, despite a lot of worries with the volatile stock market, most economists on Wall Street toward the end of the week had been marking up their forecast for the third and fourth quarter."
Kudlow, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, acknowledged he was wrong in 2007 when just before the start of the Great Recession he wrote “there’s no recession coming,” but said he remained optimistic about his current forecast that talk of a recession is premature.
"Let's not be afraid of optimism,” Kudlow said. “I think there's a very optimistic economy going on out there."
Navarro, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” insisted: "We have the strongest economy in the world. Money is coming here for our stock market.”
On Tuesday, days after Trump announced he was imposing a 10-percent tariff on imported Chinese goods, the president reversed his decision, announcing that he would delay imposing tariffs on a majority of goods until mid-December. The decision came amid mounting pressure from American retailers who argued that tariffs would drive up consumer prices and reduce overall spending just ahead of the holiday shopping season.
Navarro defended Trump’s constant call for tariffs, telling CBS’ “Face the Nation” it’s an “important part of the strategy to bring the Chinese to the negotiating table.”
“I would simply say that ... this is the battle of our time, because, if we don't get it right with China structurally, that's going to harm not just our economy and our workers,” Navarro said, citing a host of issues the United States hopes to address in a new trade deal with China, including intellectual property theft of American products and technology.
Several 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls pushed back at the White House’s rosy economic forecast.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), appearing on ABC’s “This Week” just after Navarro, said, “I don't think his worldview is reflected in the everyday kitchen table issues that families are facing.”
Gillibrand said most voters she has spoken to are “worried about their jobs, they're worried about access to health care. They're worried about providing for their kids."
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, appearing on "State of the Union," said American farmers “are getting killed” by the trade war with China. He took issue with Trump’s handling of trade negotiations with China, saying it is a “fool's errand to think you're going to get China to change the fundamentals of their economic model by poking them in the eye with some tariffs."
"The president has said repeatedly that he's on the cusp of getting a deal," Buttigieg said. "The president has failed to deliver a deal and I expect he will continue to do so and in the meantime, we're paying the cost of these tariffs."