China maintains tariffs must be reduced for phase one trade deal with U.S.


FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the start of their bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BEIJING (Reuters) – Tariffs must be cut if China and the United States are to reach an interim agreement on trade, the Asian nation’s commerce ministry said on Thursday, sticking to its stance that some U.S. tariffs must be rolled back for a phase one deal.

“The Chinese side believes that if the two sides reach a phase one deal, tariffs should be lowered accordingly,” ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.

On a telephone call last week, China’s lead trade negotiator Vice Premier Liu He discussed “core issues of concern” with U.S. Trade representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Completion of a phase one deal between the world’s two biggest economies had been initially expected in November, ahead of a new round of U.S. tariffs set to kick in on Dec. 15, covering about $156 billion of Chinese imports.

On Nov. 7, Gao said China and the United States must simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on each others’ goods for both sides to reach a phase one trade deal, but how much tariffs should be canceled could be negotiated.

Washington imposed additional 15% tariffs on about $125 billion worth of Chinese goods on Sept. 1, on top of the additional 25% tariffs levied on an earlier $250 billion list of industrial and consumer goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Lighthizer recognize that rolling back tariffs for a pact that fails to tackle core intellectual property and technology transfer issues will not be seen as a good deal for the United States, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters previously.

On Wednesday, Trump said trade talks with China were going “very well,” sounding more positive than his remarks the previous day that a trade deal might have to wait until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clarence Fernandez

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