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US, China Back Away From Tariff War


FILE - A container is loaded onto a cargo ship at the Tianjin port in China.

The U.S. and China have agreed to back away from imposing tough new tariffs on each other's exports, a day after reaching a deal for China to buy more American goods to "substantially reduce" the huge trade deficit with the U.S.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox News the world's two biggest economic powers "made very meaningful progress and we agreed on a framework" to resolve trade issues. "So right now we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework," he said.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Vice Premier Liu He, who led Chinese negotiators in trade talks in Washington this past week, as saying, "The two sides reached a consensus, will not fight a trade war, and will stop increasing tariffs on each other."

Liu said the agreement was a "necessity." But he added, "At the same time, it must be realized that unfreezing the ice cannot be done in a day, solving the structural problems of the economic and trade relations between the two countries will take time."

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U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to impose new tariffs on $150 billion worth of Chinese imports and Beijing had responded that it would do the same on American goods.

Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross would soon go to Beijing to negotiate on how China might buy more American goods to reduce the huge U.S. trade deficit with Beijing, which last year totaled $375 billion.

Philip Levy, senior fellow on the global economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, tells VOA that while the U.S. and China have for now avoided a tariff war, the outcome of the trade talks is mediocre.

"I think the Trump administration will crow about the fact that they arranged for some additional sales. That really wasn't the issue. It may have been in their minds, but in terms of what is in the national interest, it wasn't," he said.

FILE - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, arrives at a hotel in Beijing for trade talks with Chinese officials, May 3, 2018.
FILE - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, arrives at a hotel in Beijing for trade talks with Chinese officials, May 3, 2018.

Levy says the result is a managed trade solution that still does not answer the fundamental question of how a state-dominated economy the size of giant China fits into the global radiating system.

But Kudlow said there has been a lot of progress.

"You can see where we're going next. As tariffs come down, the barriers come down, there will be more American exports," he told ABC television, saying any agreement reached will be "good for American exports and good for Chinese growth."

One contentious point of conflict between the U.S. and China is the fate of ZTE, the giant technology Chinese company that has bought American-made components to build its consumer electronic devices.

FILE - Men pass by a building of Chinese tech giant ZTE, in Beijing, China, May 8, 2018.
FILE - Men pass by a building of Chinese tech giant ZTE, in Beijing, China, May 8, 2018.

The U.S. fined ZTE $1.2 billion last year for violating American bans on trade with Iran and North Korea. But ZTE said recently it was shutting down its manufacturing operations because it could no longer buy the American parts after the U.S. imposed a seven-year ban on the sale of the components.

Trump, at the behest of Chinese President Xi Jinping, a week ago "instructed" Commerce Secretary Ross to intervene to save the company and prevent the loss of Chinese jobs.

Even so, Kudlow said, "Do not expect ZTE to get off scot free. Ain't going to happen."

Ira Mellman and Kenneth Schwartz contributed to this report.

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