China and US agree to halt tariff hikes as talks progress
Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed last month to resume trade talks.
Washington and Beijing have agreed to cancel tariff hikes as their trade negotiations progress, a Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman has said.
Gao Feng said envoys had “agreed to a phased cancellation of tariff increases depending on the progress of negotiations”.
He told reporters that if both sides reach a first phase agreement, then based on that deal they will cancel already imposed tariffs proportionately.
Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed last month to resume trade talks aimed at resolving a more than year-long dispute over technology and industrial policy. As part of that truce, they halted further tariff hikes.
But both sides have imposed billions of dollars of punitive tariffs on each other’s exports and reports have said Beijing is seeking to have those rolled back as part of any agreement.
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said earlier this week that any first phase agreement would be general and cover trade in specific areas such as soybeans and liquefied natural gas.
More complicated issues would be tackled in later rounds of negotiations, he said.
Mr Ross did not directly say if rolling back tariffs was a possibility in the first phase talks.
The governments of the two biggest global economies have raised tariffs in the fight over China’s trade surplus and technology ambitions.
That weighs on trade worldwide and threatens to depress global economic growth that already is showing signs of slowing.
An initial agreement reached on October 12 was modest and details have yet to be put on paper but it was welcomed as a sign of progress toward ending the trade war.
Mr Trump agreed to postpone a planned tariff hike while lower-level officials hammered out details.
He said China agreed to buy up to 50 billion dollars of American farm goods but Beijing has yet to confirm the scale of its commitment.
News reports said Beijing wants 15% tariffs imposed in September on 125 billion dollars of Chinese imports removed before it will make a formal commitment.
There had been no indication whether Mr Trump might agree, which raised the possibility of another breakdown in negotiations.
China’s imports of American soybeans and other goods tumbled 26.4% in the first nine months of this year following tariff hikes and orders to importers to find other suppliers.
The October 12 agreement helped to ease financial market jitters, but the two sides have yet to report progress on major disagreements over technology following 13 rounds of talks.
Mr Trump and Mr Xi were due to meet at this month’s gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders in Chile but that event was cancelled due to protests there.
That dampened hopes a face-to-face meeting might produce progress but US officials said the two governments are looking for a different location.