U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators have ended the first of two days of talks aimed at saving a trade deal even as President Donald Trump said “We’re starting that paperwork today” for imposing new “very heavy tariffs” on Chinese products.”
The United States is set to impose an increase in tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
They will go into effect before Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin return to the table.
The White House said Thursday evening that “Ambassador Lightizer and Secretary Mnuchin met with President Trump to discuss the ongoing trade negotiations with China. The ambassador and secretary then had a working dinner with Vice Premier Liu He and agreed to continue discussions tomorrow morning at USTR.”
Liu He is leading the Chinese negotiating team for the talks, which threatened to collapse after the Trump administration accused Beijing of backtracking.
“We were getting very close to a deal, then they started to renegotiate the deal,” said Trump on Thursday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “It was their idea to come back” and resume discussion ahead of the Friday deadline for additional tariffs, the president said.
Trump said he had also received “a beautiful letter” from Xi that expressed a sentiment of “let’s work together.”
Trump told reporters that he happens “to think tariffs for our country are very powerful,” in line with a view he has been expressing that such increased punitive taxes would be good for America’s economy.
Some economists, however, predict such tariffs would cut in half U.S. economic growth seen in the first quarter of this year.
Officials in Beijing say they have “made all necessary preparations” if Trump follows through on the pledge to impose the new set of tariffs.
Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing on Thursday that China will not bow to any pressure, and warned it has the “determination and ability to defend its own interests.” The ministry issued an earlier statement vowing to take any necessary countermeasures if the tax is implemented.
The Trump administration hopes the new tariffs will force changes in China’s trade, subsidy and intellectual property practices.
The two sides have been unable to reach a deal thanks, in part, to differences over the enforcement of an agreement and a timeline for removing the tariffs.
Trump says despite being poised to impose the additional tariffs, he is not looking for a trade war with Beijing.
“I want to get along with China,” he told reporters.