FUKUOKA • A highly anticipated late June meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping has some parallels with their Buenos Aires summit last December that postponed a tariff hike, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday.
He told Reuters in an interview that the US-China trade dispute was at a similar point in December, when Mr Trump and Mr Xi met on the sidelines of a G-20 summit, with a United States tariff increase about to kick in on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods.
As this year's June 28-29 G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, approaches, Mr Trump is preparing to launch 25 per cent tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports so far untouched by the two countries' tariff war, a US$300 billion (S$409 billion) list of consumer goods including cellphones, computers and clothing.
"As it relates to the higher tariffs, if you just recall where we were in Buenos Aires, they were going to go up," Mr Mnuchin said.
"They were scheduled to go up, and as a result of that meeting, the President agreed not to raise them while we were negotiating."
Asked whether he thought a similar outcome would result from the meeting in Osaka - Mr Trump agreeing to forestall the tariffs while negotiations resume - Mr Mnuchin said: "That's the President's decision."
Mr Trump said on Thursday in France that he would decide whether to proceed with the tariffs after the meeting with Mr Xi.
The Buenos Aires summit paved the way for five months of talks aimed at ending a festering trade war between the world's two largest economies.
But these talks broke down early last month, and no face-to-face meetings have been held since May 10, the day that Mr Trump sharply increased tariffs on a US$200 billion list of Chinese goods to 25 per cent - the increase that he delayed after the Buenos Aires meeting.
Earlier, Mr Mnuchin said at a news briefing that the Osaka meeting, yet to be confirmed by the Chinese side, was where the "main progress" could be made towards reviving talks to end the US-China trade conflict.
He downplayed expectations for a meeting expected today with People's Bank of China governor Yi Gang on the sidelines of a G-20 finance leaders' meeting in Fukuoka, Japan.
The Treasury chief said that while he would discuss trade issues with Dr Yi, "this is not a negotiating meeting".