US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin weighs lifting tariffs on China: Wall Street Journal

Mnuchin speaking to Capitol Hill reporters on Jan 15, 2019.
Mnuchin speaking to Capitol Hill reporters on Jan 15, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during trade discussions scheduled for Jan 30, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (Jan 17), citing people familiar with the internal deliberations.

But Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has resisted the idea, and the proposal had not yet been introduced to President Donald Trump, according to the Journal.

US stocks advanced on the news even as a Treasury spokesman working with the administration's trade team denied the report.

"Neither Secretary Mnuchin nor Ambassador Lighthizer have made any recommendations to anyone with respect to tariffs or other parts of the negotiation with China," the spokesman said. "This an ongoing process with the Chinese that is nowhere near completion."

The Journal also reported, citing its sources, that the US Department of Agriculture recently told the US meat industry that chicken products are being discussed as part of the broader trade negotiations with China.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will visit the US on Jan 30 and 31 for the latest round of trade talks aimed at resolving a bitter trade dispute between the world's two largest economies.

In December, Washington and Beijing agreed to a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods.

Mid-level US and Chinese officials met in Beijing last week to discuss China's offers to address US complaints about intellectual property theft and increase purchases of US goods and services.

 

Mr Lighthizer did not see any progress made on structural issues during those talks, Republican US Senator Chuck Grassley said earlier this week.

The Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent on March 2 from 10 per cent.

The timeline is seen as ambitious, but the resumption of face-to-face negotiations has bolstered hopes of a deal.

China has repeatedly played down complaints about intellectual property abuses, and has rejected accusations that foreign companies face forced technology transfers.

Industrial stocks, which have been sensitive to trade developments, jumped 1.4 per cent after the Wall Street Journal report.