US temporarily suspends tariffs on Chinese products

Washington: The US has put on hold its plan to impose sweeping tariffs on Chinese products as it presses forward with negotiations to reduce its trade deficit with Beijing, a top priority of President Donald Trump.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that the two countries had made progress as they concluded three days of trade negotiations in Washington late last week. The planned tariffs on $150 billion worth of Chinese goods were off the table while the talks proceeded, he was cited as saying by the New York Times.

“We are putting the trade war on hold,” Mnuchin said in a “Fox News Sunday” television interview. He said they had agreed on a “framework” under which China would increase its purchases of US goods while putting in place “structural” changes to protect US technology and to make it easier for American companies to compete in China.

While Trump administration officials said last week that China had agreed to increase its purchases of American products by $200 billion by 2020, Chinese officials had pushed back on that claim and the joint statement the two sides released lacked any such dollar figure.

Mnuchin declined to confirm that figure. “We have very specific targets; I’m not going to disclose what they are. “They go industry by industry.”

He suggested that under a deal, China would make big increases in its purchases of US agricultural products and energy over the next several years.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said Sunday that the $200 billion number was a “rough ballpark estimate” that both sides had used.

It is a figure that simply “interests the President a lot”, he said, and is not an indication that a deal of that size is imminent.

“They are offering to make structural reforms such as lower tariffs and lowering non-tariff barriers, which will permit us to export billions and billions more goods to China,” Kudlow said of China on ABC’s “This Week” programme. “That’s the elementary point. That’s the key point.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will soon visit Beijing to finalize the agreement whereby China will import more energy products and agricultural commodities from the US, the Treasury Secretary said.