‘Trump will make final call on China tariffs, likes direction of talks’

Reuters . Washington | Published: 00:00, Dec 09,2019


Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday that a December 15 deadline was still in place to impose a new round of US tariffs on Chinese consumer goods, but president Donald Trump liked where trade talks with China were going.

With about a week to go before the deadline amid ‘intense’ negotiations, Kudlow said that Trump would make the final decision on the import tariffs, which would hit Chinese-made cellphones, laptop computers, toys and clothing.

‘There’s no arbitrary deadline here ... but that fact remains December 15 is a very important date with respect to a no-go or go-on tariffs,’ Kudlow, the director of White House’s National Economic Council, told CNBC. ‘It’s going to be totally up to POTUS (the US president). But December 15th is an important date.’

China earlier on Friday said that it would waive import tariffs for some soya beans and pork shipments from the United States, contributing to a more positive tone in financial market sentiment about the talks.

Kudlow, speaking to reporters at the White House, described the waivers as ‘good mood music’ for the negotiations between the world’s two largest economies.

Washington and Beijing are trying to reach agreement on a ‘phase one’ trade deal that would cool a 17month trade war that has roiled financial markets, disrupted supply chains and weighed on global economic growth.

China has demanded that some of the existing US tariffs imposed on about $375 billion worth of its exports be removed, in addition to cancellation of the December 15 tariffs on some $156 billion of its remaining exports to the United States.

Trump has demanded that China commit to specific minimum purchases of US agricultural products, among other concessions on intellectual property rights, currency and access to China’s financial services markets.

‘We’ve all learned that if he is not satisfied with these talks ... then he would not hesitate to increase tariffs,’ Kudlow told Bloomberg Television.

Kudlow said that the two sides had talked almost daily, but there were currently no plans for in-person talks or a signing ceremony between Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

‘None of those decisions have been made ... let’s get a deal first and then we’ll figure out how, when and where they’ll do the signing.’

Trump struck an upbeat tone on Thursday even after Chinese officials reiterated their stance that existing tariffs must come off as part of an interim deal to de-escalate the US-China trade war.

Financial markets have been bouncing up and down for weeks on shifts in rhetoric about the trade negotiations. On Friday, the mood was positive, helped by a strong jobs report and the more positive tone from Trump.

At midday, the major US stock indexes were all up around 1 per cent, nearing the record highs they touched last week.

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