President Trump said Thursday morning that the United States is closing in on a trade deal with China, as a weekend decision looms about whether to impose tariffs on $160 billion of consumer products from China.
“Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China. They want it, and so do we!” The president wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.
The president’s assertion that he wanted a deal with Beijing was a departure from his recent statements, in which he had said that China wanted an agreement more than the United States. It appeared to be a signal that the president would delay or cancel a tranche of tariffs scheduled to go into effect this weekend, on roughly $160 billion of Chinese products.
That move would have extended levies to cover nearly every good that the United States imposed from China — a total of $539.5 billion of merchandise last year.
The injection of optimism from the president came as he was expected to meet with his economic teams on Thursday to issue a final decision on how to proceed. Stocks surged in the United States following the tweet, with the S&P 500 climbing about 1 percent in midmorning trading.
The benchmark has been trading in record territory as investors anticipated a de-escalation of the trade war, and amid signs that the domestic economy is holding up.
Several of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers had recommended a delay in the levies, which would have included taxes on smartphones, laptops and apparel. That could open Mr. Trump up to political attacks that he is taxing American consumers during the holiday season approaches, and halt any progress in negotiations with China toward finishing a trade pact.
Those negotiations have failed to produce a concrete agreement, despite Mr. Trump’s announcement in October that the two countries had agreed on a Phase 1 deal.
Recent talks have centered on what portion of tariffs the United States would lift in return for China’s concessions — including whether Mr. Trump would remove the tariffs he has imposed since September, or slash the overall rate for all or some of the tariffs in effect, to reduce the existing tax on China by half.
The United States has been insisting that China commit to agricultural purchases in order for a deal to proceed. Talks have centered around the timeline and dollar amount of soybeans, poultry, and other goods that China would buy.
To ensure that China keeps its commitments, the Trump administration has been insisting on quarterly reviews, as well as an agreement that China’s purchases would not drop below a certain amount. Chinese negotiators had pushed back in recent discussions, arguing that set purchase amounts could anger its trading partners and violate its commitments to the World Trade Organization to treat all members equally.
Many of Mr. Trump’s advisers have been wary of increasing tariffs on China just as negotiations appear to be approaching a conclusion.
But that sentiment has not been unanimous. Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s hawkish trade adviser, circulated a memo this week under his alias, Ron Vara, making the case for forging ahead with additional tariffs and delaying any deal until after the 2020 election.
Mr. Navarro and other administration officials have emphasized that the final call on Sunday’s tariffs is up to Mr. Trump.
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