Top U.S. and Chinese trade officials met over the phone Tuesday to negotiate, said President Donald Trump, who stressed the talks were “productive” and offered optimism that a conclusion could come soon.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Yi Gang, head of China’s central bank, and Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission spoke on the phone with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a report from Xinhua News, a state-controlled media outlet.
The officials are scheduled to talk again in two weeks, just before new U.S. tariffs go into effect at the beginning of September.
The Chinese officials took the opportunity to complain about Trump’s announcement two weeks ago to hit another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods with a 10% tariff.
Some of those tariffs are scheduled to be levied on Sept. 1, but the Trump administration offered a surprise Tuesday when it announced that it is delaying tariffs on some of the Chinese products until Dec. 15.
The list contains popular consumer goods such as computers, toys, shoes, smartphones and video game consoles, but also included are a hodgepodge of uncommon products too that include frog meat, canoe paddles, umbrellas and fireworks.
Trump, when asked by reporters why he delayed tariffs on some of the Chinese products, said: “Only to help, I think, a lot of different groups of people.”
The president has said repeatedly that he believes the U.S. tariffs, which are collected from U.S. importers, are not impacting U.S. companies or consumers, but delay is “just in case they might have an impact on people. What we've done is we've delayed it so that they won't be relevant for the Christmas shopping season.”
The roughly $300 billion worth of tariffs set to go into place either Sept. 1 or Dec. 15 represent the last of China’s exports that are not already taxed in the ongoing trade war that has hit the U.S. ag industry especially hard. Chinese retaliatory tariffs are cutting significantly into U.S. exports of soybeans, cotton, sorghum, fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
Trump recently voiced concerns that the trade war could go on for more than another year, but said Tuesday a deal could come much sooner.
“I think they want to do something,” he said. “I think they'd like to do something dramatic … But they really would like to make a deal. The call itself was very productive.”
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