US eyes more China tariffs if Trump-Xi meeting fails: reports

The United States is preparing to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports by early December if talks next month between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping fail to ease the trade war.

According to a Bloomberg report, citing anonymous sources, no decisions had been made but a new list of US tariffs was being prepared in case the Trump-Xi meeting does not yield progress.

A person familiar with the US administration’s tariff deliberations told Reuters news agency there could soon be movement towards a new round of tariffs, adding “the wheels are turning” in that direction.

Trump has long threatened to impose tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports into the United States, which exceed $257bn, if Beijing fails to meet US demands for sweeping changes to Chinese trade, technology transfer, and industrial subsidy policies.

Trump has already imposed tariffs on $250bn worth of Chinese goods, and China responded with retaliatory duties on $110bn worth of US goods.

Can the US and China resolve their differences?

Previous rounds of tariffs have focused on Chinese capital and intermediate goods, but a final round would hit consumer products including mobile phones, computers, clothing and footwear hard.

‘Action items’ needed

Asked about a new tariff announcement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told a briefing: “I’m not going to get ahead of the president’s meeting and I hope it goes well.”

Leaders of the world’s two largest economies are due to meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Argentina at the end of November.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Reuters earlier this month in Bali, Indonesia that China needed to agree to specific “action items” to rebalance the US-Chin economic relationship, opening markets and changing technology transfer, subsidy and currency policies.

US-China Business Council senior vice president Erin Ennis said it would not be a surprise to see Trump move towards announcing more tariffs, given his repeated threats to do so. But she said the group representing US companies doing business in China was urging both sides to better use the time before the Trump-Xi meeting to figure out how progress can be made on substantive issues.

“Our hope is that cooler heads will prevail and they will start having substantive discussions that will address the Americans’ concerns and start lifting the tariffs,” Ennis said.

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