President Trump said Thursday morning that the United States is closing in on a trade deal with China, as a weekend decision looms about whether to impose tariffs on $160 billion of consumer products from China.
“Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China. They want it, and so do we!” The president wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.
The president’s assertion that he wanted a deal with Beijing was a departure from his recent statements, in which he had said that China wanted an agreement more than the United States and that a pact might not happen until after the 2020 election. It appeared to be a signal that the president would delay or cancel a tranche of tariffs scheduled to go into effect this weekend, on roughly $160 billion of Chinese products.
Many of Mr. Trump’s advisers have been wary of increasing tariffs on China at a moment when negotiators from both sides are trying to reach agreement on the first phase of a trade deal. Despite Mr. Trump’s announcement in October that the two countries had agreed on a preliminary deal, a concrete agreement has proved elusive, in part because the Chinese have been pushing the president to remove the tariffs he has placed on $360 billion worth of goods.
In recent talks, the United States has offered to slash the overall rate on tariffs it has already imposed on China by half, in return for ambitious commitments on China’s part to purchase American farm goods. Mr. Trump wants China to make significant purchases of soybeans, poultry, and other goods, to help relieve the pressure that the trade war has put on American farmers.
To ensure that China keeps its commitments, the Trump administration has been insisting on quarterly reviews, as well as an agreement that China’s purchases would not drop below a certain amount. Chinese negotiators had pushed back in recent discussions, arguing that set purchase amounts could anger its trading partners and violate its commitments to the World Trade Organization to treat all members equally. It is not clear whether China has accepted such a deal.
As negotiations progress, several of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers have recommended a delay in the new levies scheduled to go into effect on Sunday, which would extend tariffs to cover nearly every shoe, laptop and toy that the United States imports from China — a total of $539.5 billion of merchandise last year.
Mr. Trump’s injection of optimism about a deal came ahead of a meeting with his economic team on Thursday to decide how to proceed. Barring an official delay, the tariffs would go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 15.
Stocks surged in the United States following the tweet, with the S&P 500 climbing about 1 percent in midmorning trading.
The benchmark has been trading in record territory as investors anticipated a de-escalation of the trade war, and amid signs that the domestic economy is holding up.
Still, the decision to delay the tariffs — or to reach a deal — has not been unanimous. Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s hawkish trade adviser, circulated a memo this week that makes the case for forging ahead with additional tariffs and delaying any deal until after the 2020 election.
Mr. Navarro and other administration officials have emphasized that the final call on Sunday’s tariffs is up to Mr. Trump.
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