US President Donald Trump to discuss possible tariffs on Chinese imports on Thursday, source says

White House set to unveil revisions to initial tariff list targeting US$50 billion of Chinese goods on Friday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 9:34am

US President Donald Trump will meet his top trade advisers on Thursday to decide whether to activate threatened tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods, a senior White House official said.

Trump is due to unveil revisions to his initial tariff list targeting US$50 billion of Chinese goods on Friday. People familiar with the revisions said the list will be slightly smaller than the original, with some goods deleted and others added, particularly in the technology sector.

Another official said a draft document showed the new list would still be close to US$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 will activate the tariffs if he decides to do so. Several industry lobbyists said they expect the move to come as early as Friday, with the publication of a Federal Register notice, or it could be put off until next week.

Beijing warns Washington: all trade promises are off if US imposes tariffs

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 US 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,” said a person familiar with the matter.

But that recommendation came before Trump’s trip late last week to Canada for the G7 leaders summit and to Singapore for the nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump arrived back in Washington on Wednesday morning.

Trump told Fox News in an interview aired on Wednesday 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.”

He did not specifically mention the tariffs and added that he had “a very good relationship with President Xi [Jinping] of China”.

The move towards activating US tariffs follows negotiations between US and Chinese officials centred on increased purchases by Beijing of American farm and energy commodities and cutting the US trade deficit with China.

Divisions between Donald Trump and G7 allies on trade ‘won’t help China’s negotiations with US’

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this month met Chinese officials in Beijing and took back a Chinese proposal to purchase about US$70 billion worth of additional commodities and manufactured goods. But that offer was not accepted by Trump, people familiar with the matter said.

The administration’s trade hawks, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, have been pushing for a tougher approach to the negotiations to address US allegations that China has misappropriated American intellectual property through joint venture requirements, state-backed acquisitions of US technology firms and outright theft.