Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks with President Trump. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin broke his silence on trade tensions with China Monday morning, tweeting that media reports of looming restrictions on investment from China were “fake news.”

“Statement will be out not specific to China, but to all countries that are trying to steal our technology,” Mnuchin wrote, playing down the impact new restrictions will have on the trade relationship with China.

Mnuchin, who is seen as a moderate who wants to strike a deal with China to avert a tariff battle, called out the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

The tweet was an apparent reference to a WSJ warning that “President Donald Trump, already embroiled in a trade battle with China, plans to ratchet commercial tensions higher [with investment restrictions],” and Bloomberg’s lamentation that the Treasury Department is “putting Washington’s trade war with Beijing on a potentially irreversible course.”

Bloomberg updated the article after the tweet to note, despite the Treasury secretary’s insistence that China was not the target of the investment curbs, the president’s memorandum ordering him to draft the limits specifically cited China.

A fellow cabinet member of Mnuchin’s, trade advisor Peter Navarro, made clear his understanding of the Trump administration’s trade policy with China, when he said in an interview last month that preventing China from becoming a leader in high-technology industries was “exactly” what the goal was.

US stocks, which have been relatively resilient to tariff headlines, fell on Monday on fears of a contraction in global trade. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were both down around 1.50% as of 2:00pm. The Nasdaq was down more than 2.30%.

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