US expects China to slash some tariffs 'immediately'

President Trump cast more doubt trade talks with China will lead to a breakthrough after a 90-day ceasefire in a series of tweets that helped erase optimism and reignited fears of a global economic slowdown.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump participate in a bilateral dinner meeting during the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec 1, 2018.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump participate in a bilateral dinner meeting during the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec 1, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The United States expects China to act "immediately" on commitments made on trade and reforms at President Xi Jinping's dinner meeting in Buenos Aires, President Donald Trump's chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow said.

"That is my understanding and hopefully we'll see some 'immediate' action," Mr Kudlow, Director of the President's National Economic Council, told journalists in a conference call on Monday (Dec 3).

One expectation based on meetings with China's economic czar, Vice Premier Liu He, at Buenos Aires, was that China will slash tariffs on American automobiles, and roll back its retaliatory tariffs on American agriculture imports.

"My expectation is that China will roll back those tariffs quickly," Mr Kudlow said.

On Sunday (Dec 2) night upon his return from Argentina, President Trump tweeted : "China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the US. Currently the tariff is 40%."

"That is my understanding, I believe that commitment was made," Mr Kudlow said. "This is an area where that word "immediately" comes in. Let's get rolling folks. Today's Monday, dinner was Saturday, feel free to make important steps to give more credibility."

The 90-day negotiation window to reach an agreement with China on trade and reforms, agreed on at Buenos Aires, began on Dec 1.

Possibly to push back against some scepticism at the deal made in Buenos Aires, given the fact that there are weeks of negotiations left before a real agreement emerges, Mr Kudlow acknowledged that what happened at the dinner was not a trade deal but a commitment. But that was of "enormous" significance, he emphasised.

He said the chemistry between President Trump and President Xi was evident. President Xi had come fully briefed to make his pitch to Mr Trump.

 
 
 

"He engaged in a level of detail," he said. "You could say he was selling this."

"We have never had such broad based detail, and this is new," he said. "There is stuff on the table that we've not seen before. That bolsters my optimism."

Citing the troubled history of negotiations, he said "The history is not great." But he added : "We never got to this stage before. We never even got close to this."

But amid the optimism, he did inject a note of caution.

"I am cautiously optimistic" he said at one point. "I may be wrong," he said at another.

A timetable would have to be set up for talks, he said. "It's all going to begin very fast," he stressed. But he added : "Much of the credibility of this discussion will hinge on rapid movement and implementation of Chinese commitment."