WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that he will further raise tariffs on China unless a bilateral agreement is reached.
Trump’s remarks, made at a White House Cabinet meeting, come amid talks between Washington and Beijing aimed at finalizing and signing a so-called “phase one” trade deal and ratcheting down a nearly two-year trade war.
“If we don’t make a deal with China, I’ll just raise the tariffs even higher,” Trump said. “China’s going to have to make a deal that I like. If they don’t, that’s it. OK?”
The initial idea was for Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign a limited trade deal at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in mid-November in Santiago, but the decision to cancel that gathering due to violent anti-government protests in Chile complicated those plans.
The difficulties involved in reaching a deal, meanwhile, have been reflected in the often contradictory statements made by the two nations.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said early this month that the two sides had agreed to phase out the tariffs imposed during the trade war, which began in March 2018.
But Trump threw cold water on expectations for a trade truce a few days later, saying that he had not yet agreed to roll back any tariffs and that eliminating all of the levies imposed on roughly $360 billion worth of Chinese goods was out of the question.
“They’d like to have a rollback – I have not agreed to anything,” Trump said on Nov. 8. “China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback, because they know I won’t do it.”
The latest major episode in the trade war came on Sept. 1, when tariffs on $112 billion worth of Chinese goods – including tools, clothing, footwear and electronics – were raised from 10 percent to 15 percent.
On Dec. 15, levies on an additional batch of Chinese imports valued at around $160 billion – including smartphones, laptops, apparel and toys – are set to be raised from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies not only affect their bilateral relations but also have major global consequences.
In its latest forecast in July, the International Monetary Fund lowered its projection for global growth to 3.2 percent for 2019, down a tenth of a percentage point from April amid concerns about the ongoing trade war.