China says tariffs should be reduced for phase one trade deal with US

Mr Gao Feng, spokesman at China's Commerce Ministry, said tariffs must be lowered for there to be a phase one trade agreement with the US. PHOTO: X90176

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 (Dec 5), sticking to its stance that some US 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 US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US 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 US tariffs set to kick in on Dec 15, covering about US$156 billion (S$212.4 billion) of Chinese imports.

On Nov 7, Mr Gao said China and the US 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 cancelled could be negotiated.

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

US President Donald Trump and Mr Lighthizer recognise 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 US, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters previously.

On Wednesday, Mr 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 US presidential election.

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