US maintains hard line in trade with China: report

The U.S. will hold fast to its 90-day deadline for the conclusion of a lasting trade agreement with China and would impose punishing tariffs on Chinese imports if none is reached.

That is according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on CBS on Sunday.

“It has to be verifiable, it has to be monitored, it can’t be just vague promises like we’ve seen over the last 25 years.…As far as I’m considered, it’s a hard deadline.”

At the end of the 90-day period, which began Dec. 1, tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would rise to 25% from the current 10%.

A week after President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a trade truce in Buenos Aires, details of the cease-fire are becoming clear—big Chinese purchases, tough negotiations and shifting deadlines to finish a deal, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, Beijing and Washington agreed that China will purchase large amounts of goods and services, with China pledging to announce soybean and natural-gas purchases in the coming weeks.

Beijing is also considering reducing tariffs on U.S. automobiles.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday noted “some very positive, promising statements” out of Beijing. He also said some 35 Chinese agencies and the country’s supreme court were “working on new legislation to deal with the IP theft issues.”

“When you piece it together…there’s a lot of good things out there,” Kudlow said, speaking on Fox News Sunday.

Under the terms of the understanding, purchases and tariff reductions aren’t required until a deal is struck, but both sides believe early purchases would serve as a kind of down payment and give a boost to negotiations. Beijing wants to persuade the U.S. to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods.

Trade talks, though, could run aground after the arrest in Canada of the daughter of the Huawei founder, Meng Wangzhou, for allegedly helping the telecommunications giant evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador in Beijing on Saturday to deliver an ultimatum—release the Huawei executive or face unspecified consequences the ministry said.

Other U.S. officials have gone on TV to discuss the negotiations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News that China would make “additional purchases of $1.2 trillion” and “if that is real, that will close the trade deficit.” Last year, the U.S. shipped $188 billion of goods and services to Beijing and ran a $336 billion deficit in total trade.

A Treasury official didn’t say over what time period the increase would occur. In the past few months,  Xi has touted a Chinese Commerce Ministry report saying China would import a total of $2.5 trillion in services globally over five years.