September 12, 2019 / 12:54 PM / 2 months ago

Trump is prepared to keep, raise tariffs on Chinese goods, Mnuchin says

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, U.S. September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is prepared to keep or even raise tariffs on Chinese imports amid ongoing trade talks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday, after both sides granted concessions ahead of the next round of negotiations.

Still, Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC, U.S. officials were looking to make progress when talks resume with lower level officials this month ahead of higher-level discussions with top officials in October.

“We don’t want a trip that’s just a series of discussions. We want to make meaningful progress,” he said.

“The president is a negotiator. And he’s prepared to keep these tariffs in place. He’s prepared to raise tariffs if we need to raise tariffs,” Mnuchin said, adding he was “cautiously optimistic” about upcoming meetings.

The Trump administration expects Beijing to buy U.S. farm products, he said.

“It is expected that China will be buying large amounts of our agricultural products!” Trump tweeted separately on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the United States and China both made concessions, with Beijing dropping tariffs on some pharmaceuticals and other goods, while Washington announced a short delay to scheduled tariff hikes on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods.

Asked about media reports that China was seeking to narrow the scope of negotiations to trade and not national security matters, Mnuchin declined to discuss specifics. But, he added, the U.S. was still focused on intellectual property, forced joint ventures and other matters.

Protests in Hong Kong here are not part of the negotiations, he added.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Howard Schneider; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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