President Donald Trump has intervened to stop his own administration’s developing plans to block sales of GE-made jet engines to China and other proposed restrictions on American exports, declaring that national security is being used too often by his own officials to limit American companies’ ability to transact with China.

“We don’t want to make it impossible to do business with us,” Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday. “That will only mean that orders will go to someplace else.”

The United States cannot, & will not, become such a difficult place to deal with in terms of foreign countries buying our product, including for the always used National Security excuse, that our companies will be forced to leave in order to remain competitive. We want to sell...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2020

The presidential intervention represents a rare public rebuke of some of the administration’s hardliners on China, who have been pushing stricter rules to curtail sales of U.S. technology to Beijing -- from semiconductors to jet engines. It also comes as Trump is touting a “phase one” deal with China that is meant to spur a $200 billion Chinese buying spree of American exports including commercial jets and other manufactured products.

Senior officials were expected to decide by the end of this month whether to block exports to China of jet engines made by a General Electric Co. joint venture with France’s Safran SA for use in the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China’s C919 single-aisle passenger jet now undergoing flight tests, according to three people familiar with the issue. They also have been considering broadening restrictions on sales by U.S. and overseas suppliers to Huawei Technologies Co.

Hawks vs. Doves

Trump’s tweets Tuesday brought into public light what in recent years has been a bitter battle between two factions in his administration. One group sees China’s economic rise as an existential challenge to the U.S. and advocates a “decoupling” of the two economies. The other views any such move as too extreme, arguing it would present its own risk to U.S. power and American innovation.

The president’s comments also came as another crucial moment was approaching.

Both the GE and Huawei potential restrictions and other China-related policies were due to be discussed by senior officials on Thursday ahead of a cabinet-level meeting scheduled for Feb. 28, according to people familiar with the proposals. The measures appeared to have some backing from several agencies including the Department of Commerce, the people said.

“I have seen some of the regulations being circulated, including those being contemplated by Congress, and they are ridiculous,“ Trump tweeted.

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