United States trade negotiators may cancel a new round of tariffs on imported Chinese goods set to take effect on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, citing sources briefed on the matter.
Trade negotiators made the offer as part of a broader effort to cement a phase one deal to de-escalate the trade relationship between the two powers, reported the newspaper.
While US President Donald Trump on Thursday said the US was “very close” to nailing down a trade deal with China, the White House had no comment on the WSJ’s report.
US negotiators not only offered to suspend tariffs due to go into effect on December 15, but they also offered to cut existing tariffs on $360bn in Chinese goods by as much as 50 percent, the WSJ noted.
However, during a regular briefing on Wednesday in Beijing, Gao Feng, a spokesman for the Chinese commerce ministry, told reporters, “The two sides’ economic and trade teams are maintaining close communication.”
Gao declined to comment on possible retaliatory steps if Washington imposes more tariffs on Chinese goods this weekend.
On December 15, the US is due to impose tariffs on almost $160bn of Chinese imports such as video game consoles, computer monitors and toys.
Trump is expected to meet top trade advisers on Thursday afternoon to discuss the move, sources told Reuters previously.
A decision to proceed with the levies could roil financial markets and scuttle US-China talks to end the 17-month-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
The two countries agreed in October to conclude a preliminary trade agreement. Still, talks have failed to produce deals on agricultural purchases by China and rollbacks of existing tariffs imposed by the US. Many analysts had expected a deal ahead of December 15.
Beijing has said it would retaliate if the US escalates the trade dispute.
In August, China said it would impose five percent and 10 percent in additional tariffs on $75bn of US goods in two batches. Tariffs on the first batch kicked in on September 1, hitting US goods, including soya beans, pork, beef, chemicals and crude oil.
The tariffs on the second batch of products are due to be activated on December 15, affecting goods ranging from corn and wheat to small aircraft and rare earth magnets.
China also said it will reinstitute – on December 15 – an additional 25 percent tariff on US-made vehicles and five percent tariffs on auto parts that had been suspended at the beginning of 2019.