WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that the United States may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.
The stance could complicate U.S.-China trade talks set to resume next week, as Chinese officials have been pressing for a full lifting of U.S. tariffs as part of any deal, people familiar with the talks have said.
Trump said his top negotiators, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and 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 March 1 deadline to avert a rise in tariffs on $200 billion (£151.6 billion) worth of Chinese imports to 25 percent from the current 10 percent.
“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 U.S. 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.
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 $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, including $50 billion in technology and industrial goods at 25 percent and $200 billion in other products including furniture and construction materials, at 10 percent. China has hit back with tariffs on about $110 billion worth of U.S. 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 U.S. farm exports and disrupted manufacturing supply chains.
Later on Wednesday, during a speech in Lima, Ohio, Trump emphasized again that he wanted the United States to reach a “great” trade deal with China.
“We’re so far down, it’s got to be a great deal. If it’s not a great deal, you never catch up,” Trump said in remarks at a military tank manufacturing plant.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Lima, Ohio, and David Lawder in Washington; Writing by David Lawder, Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney