United States officials are “putting the trade war” with China “on hold” after making “meaningful progress” and reaching a tentative agreement, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News’ Sunday.”
President Donald Trump announced earlier in the year that his administration would impose tariffs on Chinese products totaling $50 billion with the possibility of increasing it $150 billion in an effort to clamp down on China’s trade abuses.
China retaliated by threatening tariffs of their own. But after Trump administration officials and Chinese negotiators reached a framework deal Saturday, Mnuchin said that the U.S. had called off the dispute for the time being.
“We’re putting the trade war on hold,” Mnuchin told host Chris Wallace. “So, right now, we are — we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework.”
“The president has been very clear since the first meeting with [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] in Mar-a-Lago, that it is — we are going to reduce the trade deficit. We have an agreement with China that they will substantially agree to it,” Mnuchin added.
But China agreed to purchase $200 billion more of U.S. products if the U.S. dropped the tariffs.
“I’m pleased to report that we have made very meaningful progress, and we agreed on a framework, which is important to understand,” Mnuchin explained. “The framework includes their agreement to substantially reduce the trade deficit by increasing their purchases of goods.”
Mnuchin noted that the negotiators also discussed “very important structural issues” regarding how the Chinese are going to ensure “that we have a fair ability to compete there,” in addition to technology “protections.”
When Wallace asked Mnuchin to clarify whether or not Trump’s tariffs were “all on hold,” Mnuchin replied, “They are.”
“The president had a very productive meeting with the vice premier in the Oval Office, with all of us and the vice president. He heard these commitments himself, and he can always decide to put the tariffs back on if China doesn’t go through with their commitments,” Mnuchin said.
But National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow appeared to contradict Mnuchin when he refused to confirm Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that Trump’s threat of tariffs was “off the table.”
“I don’t think we’re at that stage yet … we’re not at that detail point,” he said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress and perhaps even more progress than we might have thought when we went to Beijing a couple of weeks ago. And the communiqué makes that very clear that we’re going to substantially reduce the U.S. trade gap.”
“I mean here’s the deal — we want China to open up markets, lower tariffs, lower nontariff barriers, give us a chance. We also want China, however, to change their behavior with respect to technology transfers and also the theft of intellectual property rights,” Kudlow added.
“Now are we going to get everything? I don’t know, but I will say this, we’re making terrific progress, and I think the meetings here in Washington were very positive. And the president himself has become very optimistic and supportive,” he said.
Kudlow also advised caution when discussing the details of the agreement U.S. and Chinese officials reached on Saturday.
“The negotiations are proceeding very well. We’re on the same page, too early for exact precise details. Maybe I got ahead of the curve, but the number $200 billion deficit reduction, which is something [the] president likes, has been around by all the people on both sides,” Kudlow clarified. “But it’s too soon to lock that in. I just think the direction here is the key.”
Kudlow emphasized that tariffs “are part of any negotiation” and “may have to be part of any enforcement.”
“You cannot do these kinds of major change without using everything that’s in your quiver, and I think the president has made that very clear,” Kudlow warned.