The US trade war with China is “on hold” as the two sides agreed to drop their tariff threats while they work on a wider agreement, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said over the weekend.
“We are putting the trade war on hold. Right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework,” Mnuchin told a Sunday television program, Reuters reports.
According to Mnuchin, an agreement reached by Chinese and American negotiators on Saturday set up a framework for addressing trade imbalances in the future.
On Saturday, Beijing and Washington said they will keep talking about measures under which China will import more energy and agricultural commodities from the US.
The move is aimed at trimming the US$335 billion annual goods and services trade deficit that the US has with China.
During an initial round of talks this month in Beijing, Washington demanded that China reduce its trade surplus by US$200 billion.
However, no figure was cited in the countries’ joint statement on Saturday, Reuters noted.
Tension between the two sides has been growing since the Trump administration proposed tariffs of US$50 billion on Chinese goods and said it might extend the levies to an additional US$150 billion. China responded with its own measures targeting US agriculture.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that while getting China to open its market to more US exports is significant, it is far more important for Washington to resolve with Beijing issues such as forced technology transfers and cyber theft.
“Real structural change is necessary. Nothing less than the future of tens of millions of American jobs is at stake,” Lighthizer said in a statement on Sunday.
Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CBS’ “Face the Nation” program on Sunday that it is too soon to lock in the US$200 billion figure for China’s promised purchases.
“The details will be down the road. These things are not so precise,” he said.
Mnuchin said the US expects to see a big increase of between 35 percent and 40 percent in agricultural exports to China this year alone and a doubling of energy purchases over the next three to five years.
“We have specific targets. I am not going to publicly disclose what they are. They go industry by industry,” Mnuchin said.
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