U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday that the Trump administration was prepared to levy tariffs on China if an American delegation heading to Beijing did not reach a negotiated settlement to reduce trade imbalances.
Ross, speaking to CNBC television before traveling to China for talks on Thursday and Friday with top Chinese officials, said he had “some hope” agreements could be reached to resolve the trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
But he added that U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made reducing the U.S. trade deficit with China a key part of his administration's trade policy, would have to first approve any deals.
Top economic officials
The U.S. delegation to Beijing also includes Trump’s top economic officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, and top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
Ross said Trump was ready to impose tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports and to further punish Beijing over its intellectual property practices under so-called Section 232 and Section 301 trade investigations.
“If we don’t make a negotiated settlement, we will pursue the 232s and impose them, we will pursue the 301 and impose them. So, one way or another, we are going to deal with this recurring problem of trade with China,” Ross told CNBC.
Ross did not provide details on the Trump administration’s specific demands on China but said, “We have a pretty good idea of what we need to come out with.”
Trump administration officials have called for a $100 billion reduction in the United States’ $375 billion trade deficit with China, a reduction in China’s car tariffs, and more U.S. access to the Asian nation’s vast markets.
“If they gave in on most of the things that we wanted, for sure there are some things that perhaps are not totally satisfactory, so this is going to come back to the president,” Ross said. “This won’t be, suddenly in Beijing, a breathtaking release (that) everything is solved.”