U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed today he will carry out President Donald Trump’s threat to increase the tariff rate on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
The increase from 10 percent to 25 percent will go into effect on Friday, said Lighthizer, who accused the Chinese of “reneging on prior commitments” last week during talks in Beijing.
There was initial concern in the U.S. ag sector that China would cancel sending its negotiators to Washington this week for the next scheduled round of talks, but Lighthizer said he expects that negotiations will take place Thursday and Friday.
An official notice is planned Tuesday to announce that the tariff rate will be hiked. It was originally set to increase on Jan. 1, but then postponed to March 1 after Trump and President Xi Jinping met in December for what was described as fruitful talks. The March 1 date was postponed indefinitely after multiple rounds of talks in Washington and Beijing where officials boasted substantial progress in ending the trade war.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said today that China does not plan on canceling the talks in light of the increased tariff rate.
“If we can get the kind of deal that makes substantial structural changes, the president would like that kind of deal … but that’s just not where we are now,” Lighthizer said.
The yearlong trade war has especially hurt U.S. farmers and ranchers who have borne the brunt of China’s retaliatory tariffs on just about every commodity the U.S. ships to China, including soybeans, wheat, oranges, dairy, beef, almonds, cherries, apples and broccoli.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., expressed surprise at the reversal in progress of the talks.
“There’s a risk when you do something like this that it keeps reverberating economically all through agriculture and for that matter everybody connected to agriculture,” he told Agri-Pulse. “Let’s hope for the best.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was confident that progress can still be made.
“Presumably the Chinese are on their way over here to negotiate and as long as the negotiations go on, I don’t think anything has changed,” Grassley told Agri-Pulse.
But Lighthizer also said he will begin work immediately to prepare to put new tariffs on an additional $325 billion worth of Chinese products. That would be on top of the $250 billion in products already being taxed.
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