Donald Trump has warned that the United States may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement, while later emphasizing he wanted them to reach a “great” trade deal.
Trade talks are set to resume next week and Chinese officials have been pressing for a full lifting of US tariffs as part of any deal.
Trump said his top negotiators, US trade representative Robert Lighthizerand treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, would leave for Beijing this weekend, confirming plans for talks next week disclosed on Tuesday by an administration official.
The face-to-face talks will be the first since Trump delayed a 1 March deadline to avert a rise in tariffs on $200bn-worth of Chinese imports to 25% from the current 10%.
“The deal is coming along nicely,” Trump said to reporters at the White House, adding that the China trip was intended “to further the deal.”
But when asked about lifting US tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump said: “We’re not talking about removing them. We’re talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal, China lives by it.”
Trump did not elaborate on his plans for the tariffs. His negotiators have demanded that China agree to an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on any reform pledges in any deal.
Later in a speech in Ohio at a military tank-manufacturing plant, Trump said: “We’re so far down, it’s got to be a great deal. If it’s not a great deal, you never catch up.”
Washington is demanding that China end practices it says force the transfer of American technology to Chinese companies, improve access for American companies to China’s markets, and curb industrial subsidies.
Since July 2018 the United States has imposed duties on $250bn of Chinese imports, including $50bn in technology and industrial goods, at 25%, and $200bn in other products including furniture and construction materials, at 10%. China has hit back with tariffs on about $110bn of US goods including soybeans and other commodities.
The eight-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies has raised costs, roiled financial markets, shrunk US farm exports and disrupted manufacturing supply chains.