Trump sows doubt on trade talks with push­back on tar­iff un­wind

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Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said that the US hasn’t agreed to roll back all tar­iffs on China, di­lut­ing hopes the US would make such a con­ces­sion to se­cure a trade deal.

“They’d like to have a roll­back, I haven’t agreed to any­thing,” Trump told re­porters yes­ter­day. “China would like to get some­what of a roll­back — not a com­plete roll­back, be­cause they know I won’t do it.”

US bonds ral­lied and stocks slipped af­ter the pres­i­dent’s re­marks re­duced some of the op­ti­mism that had been in­creas­ing around the prospects for a truce.

On Thurs­day, signs were point­ing to­ward a first-phase deal that would in­clude a tar­iff roll­back. China’s Min­istry of Com­merce spokesman Gao Feng said ne­go­tia­tors had dis­cus­sions and “agreed to re­move the ad­di­tional tar­iffs in phases as progress is made on the agree­ment.”

White House eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low also said on Thurs­day that “if there’s a phase one trade deal, there are go­ing to be tar­iff agree­ments and con­ces­sions.”

Trump made clear yes­ter­day that the US hasn’t yet reached an agree­ment and em­pha­sised that he wouldn’t elim­i­nate all tar­iffs. There is an ex­pec­ta­tion that tar­iffs sched­uled for De­cem­ber 15, which would hit pop­u­lar con­sumer items like smart­phones and toys, won’t take ef­fect as part of an ini­tial deal. But a lot of tar­iffs re­main in place in­clud­ing a 15% tar­iff on an ad­di­tional $110bn in goods that took ef­fect Septem­ber 1.

China’s ex­ports and im­ports con­tin­ued to con­tract in Oc­to­ber, data re­leased yes­ter­day showed, though slightly less than fore­cast by econ­o­mists.

The es­ca­lat­ing trade war be­tween the two coun­tries has also taken a toll on US man­u­fac­tur­ing and busi­ness in­vest­ment.

Trump also re­vived ques­tions yes­ter­day about the lo­ca­tion for sign­ing any deal with his Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping. The lead­ers had ini­tially ex­pected to meet at an in­ter­na­tional sum­mit in Chile this month, but the gath­er­ing was can­celled be­cause of protests in the cap­i­tal, San­ti­ago.

Re­ports ear­lier this week in­di­cated any fi­nal­i­sa­tion of a first-phase agree­ment might slip un­til De­cem­ber and that some US lo­ca­tions had been ruled out.

“As­sum­ing we get it, I don’t like to talk about things un­til they hap­pen, but it could be Iowa or farm coun­try or some place like that,” the pres­i­dent said yes­ter­day.

“It will be in our coun­try, but it could be some place like that,” he said.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to mem­bers of the me­dia on the South Lawn of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, DC, yes­ter­day. “China would like to get some­what of a roll­back (of tar­iffs) — not a com­plete roll­back, be­cause they know I won’t do it,” Trump said yes­ter­day.

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