Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Finance | By Jaime Brady

U.S. wants 'concrete' trade action from China within 90 days

U.S. wants 'concrete' trade action from China within 90 days

"There's a specific understanding that we're going to now turn the agreement the presidents have into a real agreement over the 90 days", Mnuchin told reporters during a gaggle outside the West Wing, while the president was busy tweeting on the topic and said he has a "very strong and personal relationship" with President Xi.

The appointment of Lighthizer, the hardline United States trade representative, to lead the talks instead of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin puts one of the administration's toughest China critics in charge.

Both the nature of the agreement and some of its detail were described quite differently by administration officials, with Trump's senior economic adviser, Larry Kudlow saying that the commitments China gave were "stuff that they're going to look at and presumably implement" and that there was no specific agreement on vehicle tariffs. The president wants to add to the already hefty duties imposed by the USA on Chinese goods, and he'd like to add an additional $267 billion in tariffs if Chinese President Xi Jinping doesn't push Beijing to alter its ways.

The apparent move on auto tariffs was part of a broader trade truce struck by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a dinner in Buenos Aires on Saturday night.

Beijing's decision to keep things vague, for now, may reflect a desire to avoid being seen as having capitulated under pressure - the sides have 90 days to reach a deal - or may be a hedge against Trump's unpredictability, analysts said.

President Donald Trump tweeted late Sunday that China would "reduce and remove" its 40 percent tariff on US cars.

That approach so far has amounted to slapping tariffs on US$250 billion (NZ$361 billion) of Chinese imports and vowing to impose penalties on all other imports if China doesn't make changes.

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Trump repeated on Tuesday that China had agreed to "start buying agricultural product [s] and more immediately", a commitment that was absent from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statement on Sunday.

As tit-for-tat trade tariffs ratcheted up between the nations this year, China slapped retaliatory duties on USA soybeans, pork and a host of other agricultural goods. But if a deal doesn't happen, he reminds his followers, "I am a Tariff Man".

Officials in Beijing did not respond to requests for an explanation and neither did the Chinese embassy in Washington. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the figure was a broad benchmark that would depend on private transactions for USA goods and was subject to market conditions. Trump named U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to lead the talks with Beijing.

Global stocks slumped on Tuesday (Dec 4) as investors grew sceptical that the United States and China made a meaningful breakthrough on Saturday.

Asked why the auto tariffs weren't mentioned in statements the USA and China issued after the dinner, Kudlow inexplicably insisted that they were. "Bob Lighthizer will be working closely with Steve Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow, Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro on seeing whether or not a REAL deal with China is actually possible".

Trump and Xi also agreed to immediately begin negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture, according to the White House statement.

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