WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with his top trade advisers on Thursday to decide whether to activate threatened tariffs on Chinese goods, a senior Trump administration official said, as China again urged talks to settle the dispute.
Trump is due to unveil revisions to his initial tariff list targeting $50 billion of Chinese goods on Friday. People familiar with the revisions said that the list will be slightly smaller than the original, with some goods deleted and others added, particularly in the technology sector.
Another administration official said that a draft document showed that the new list would still be close to $50 billion, with about 1,300 product categories, but both the dollar amount and quantity of products were still subject to change.
It remains unclear when Trump would activate the tariffs if he decides to do so. Several industry lobbyists told Reuters that they expect the move to come as early as Friday, with publication of a Federal Register notice, or it could be put off until next week.
If Washington implements tariffs, Beijing is expected to hit back with its own duties on U.S. imports including soybeans, cars, chemicals and planes, according to a list it released in early April.
Under the 1974 trade law that Trump invoked to pursue a tariff investigation into China’s intellectual property practices, he could delay the activation by 30 days. He can also delay the tariffs by another 180 days if the U.S. Trade Representative’s office finds that negotiations with China are yielding progress.
“The president’s trade team has recommended tariffs. If there are not tariffs, it will be because the president has decided that he’s not ready to implement tariffs,” a person familiar with the administration’s deliberations told Reuters.
But that recommendation came prior to Trump’s trip late last week to Canada for the G7 leaders summit and to Singapore for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to defuse a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
Trump returned to Washington early on Wednesday morning. In an interview aired on Wednesday, Trump told Fox News that he was “very strongly clamping down on trade” with China.
Asked how strong, Trump said: “Well, I think very strongly. I mean you’ll see over the next couple of weeks. They understand what we are doing.”
Trump did not specifically mention the tariffs and added that he has “a very good relationship with President Xi (Jinping) of China.”
The move toward activating U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods follows negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials centered on increased purchases by Beijing of American farm and energy commodities and cutting the U.S. trade deficit with China.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this month met with Chinese officials in Beijing and brought back a Chinese proposal to purchase around $70 billion worth of additional commodities and manufactured goods. But that offer has not been accepted by Trump, people familiar with the matter said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday that those talks had yielded progress, and reiterated China’s warning that any agreements reached on trade and business between the two countries will be void if Washington implements tariffs and other trade measures.
“The essence of China-U.S. trade and business ties is cooperation and win-win. We have consistently upheld that both sides should appropriately resolve relevant trade and business problems … via dialogue and consultations,” he said.
The administration’s trade hawks, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, have advocated a tougher approach to address U.S. allegations that China has misappropriated American intellectual property through joint venture requirements, state-backed acquisitions of U.S. technology firms and outright theft.
Amid the rising trade tensions, China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Chinese exporters have been front-loading their shipments due to changes in the international trade environment.
Reporting by David Lawder and David Shepardson in WASHINGTON and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore