Trump says he’s not on board with tariff rollbacks on Chinese goods

President Donald Trump gives a speech on HRAs
President Trump said Friday he doesn't favor a complete rollback of tariffs on Chinese goods, and the future of a formal trade agreement is less certain. (White House)

President Trump told reporters Friday that he hasn’t agreed to rolling back U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, causing stocks to fall after days of optimism and casting doubts on the future of ongoing trade negotiations.

“They’d like to have a rollback. I haven’t agreed to anything,” he told reporters before departing the White House. “China would like to get something of a rollback, not a complete rollback because they know I won’t do it.”

Stocks rose earlier in the week on news reports that some tariffs worth hundreds of billions of dollars in trade would be reduced or eliminated. The Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson said the U.S. and China negotiators agreed on Thursday “to remove the additional duties imposed on each other’s products in different phases” after they make progress in reaching a deal, according to CNBC and other reports.

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The two sides have been working toward a phase one of the trade deal which seemed ironed out in October except for being written down and signed. Trade experts said that the harder decisions on how to protect intellectual property of U.S. companies and prevent forced technology transfers by Chinese companies could be the most elusive. More Chinese purchases of U.S. farm goods could be an easier first step.

Fluctuations in global stock markets on every twist and turn in the trade negotiations are an indication of how serious the trade conflict has become. The Trump Administration has imposed tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese goods, while China has put duties on nearly $110 billion in American-made products.

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