Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs

Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE on Friday opened the door to lifting some, but not all, of the tariffs he has imposed on Chinese goods in a preliminary trade deal with Beijing.

The president told reporters Friday that he “won’t do” a total repeal of tariffs on roughly $360 billion in Chinese goods, but did not rule out lifting some import taxes. 

“They’d like to have a rollback. I haven’t agreed to anything. China would like to get somewhat of a rollback. Not a complete rollback, because they know I won’t do it,” Trump said at the White House.

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"China would like to make a deal much more than I would.”

Trump’s comments come after a week of confusion over how much leverage the White House would yield in a “Phase One” trade agreement with China. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to sign the pending preliminary deal at a summit sometime in early December.

Chinese officials said Thursday that both the U.S. and China would rollback tariffs in a preliminary agreement focused on tariff relief and agricultural trade. 

“The leaders of the two sides have conducted a serious and constructive discussion on properly addressing the concerns of both sides, and agreed to cancel the tariffs by stages in accordance with the development of the agreement,” said Gao Feng, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce. 

The New York Times also reported Thursday that the White House had agreed to lift some tariffs as part of the Phase One agreement, citing a senior administration official. 

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But as Wall Street rallied on signs of progress toward a trade deal, the chief trade hawk in Trump’s fractious economic team insisted there was no agreement to lift tariffs.

"There is no agreement at this time to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of the phase one deal," said White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said during an interview on "Lou DobbsLouis (Lou) Carl DobbsOn The Money: Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs | Buttigieg unveils T child care, college, housing plan | Global billionaires' wealth falls for first time since 2015 Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs Trump trade adviser pushes back on reports of US-China tariff deal MORE Tonight." 

"The only person who can make that decision is President Donald J. Trump, and it's as simple as that."

With less than a year until the 2020 presidential election, Trump is eager to secure a trade deal with China to fulfill a major campaign promise. The year-plus trade war between the world’s largest economies has also dampened the global economic outlook, raising risks for Trump as he attempts to ride a solid economy to reelection.

Trump has imposed tariffs on Chinese goods to boost pressure on China's fading economy and induce Beijing to reform its trade practices. While the president insists that China has effectively covered the cost of these tariffs, U.S. manufacturers and farmers have struggled to overcome rising prices and fading global demand for their products.

Trump and Xi were expected to sign a narrow agreement to ease tariffs in exchange for greater Chinese purchases of U.S. crops later this month. The Phase One agreement is intended to be a step toward a broader deal on fundamental reforms, which China experts and economists doubt will signed within Trump’s first term. 

Trump and Xi were slated to sign the preliminary deal at a now-canceled summit of Pacific nations in Chile. U.S. and Chinese officials are mulling locations within the states and beyond, though have not formally announced pending cites.

Trump said Friday that the summit location “could be Iowa,” where soybean and pork farmers have suffered under crushing Chinese tariffs, or somewhere else in “farm country.” Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is also Trump’s ambassador to China.

Republicans are also scrambling to protect several vulnerable senators up for reelection next year in states where farmers have been harmed by Chinese tariffs, including Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Tensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' MORE (Iowa) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Progressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters MORE (N.C.).

Brett Samuels contributed.