- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2018

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Sunday that a trade war with China is “on hold” and that the U.S. will delay an announced series of tariffs against Beijing after the latest round of economic talks in Washington.

“We’re putting the trade war on hold,” Mr. Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added that the Trump administration, after twice announcing levies on a number of Chinese goods, has “agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework” of a broader agreement.

Chinese state media also reported Sunday that Washington and Beijing have agreed to back off on their escalating tariff feud.

“The two sides reached a consensus, will not fight a trade war, and will stop increasing tariffs on each other,” Vice-Premier Liu He said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Mnuchin’s comments came a day after the U.S. and China released a joint statement saying the two nations have agreed to “substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China.”

The Treasury secretary would not say how much U.S. goods the Chinese would buy as President Trump seeks to reduce a $375 billion annual trade deficit with Beijing.

Saturday’s statement came after two days of talks in which China agreed to “meaningful increases” in its purchase of U.S. agriculture and energy exports to help reduce the U.S. trade deficit. The statement released by the White House said negotiators from both sides found “consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China.”

“To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services,” the statement said. “This will help support growth and employment in the United States.

The statement said both countries, which have been locked in an escalating tariff feud, agreed to resolve trade concerns “in a proactive manner.”

Mr. Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other U.S. officials concluded two days of talks Friday with a Chinese delegation led by Mr. Liu, a special envoy of President Xi Jinping.

Mr. Trump has been calling for China to end unfair trade practices. The Wall Street Journal said Chinese officials resisted a U.S. demand to cut the deficit in half by the end of 2020.

As a result of the talks, China agreed to eliminate restrictions on sorghum imports from the U.S. in a possible deal to ease U.S. sanctions on ZTE Corp., the second-largest manufacturer of phones in China. Mr. Trump said he promised to review the sanctions after a personal request from Mr. Xi, who said the ban on doing business with ZTE had hurt its 70,000 employees.

The U.S. will send a team to China to work out the details of increasing exports of agricultural and energy products, the statement said.

The countries also agreed to “strengthen cooperation” on intellectual-property protections, the statement said.

The U.S. has been threatening tariffs totaling as much as $150 billion on Chinese products, with Beijing vowing to retaliate with its own tariffs on U.S. agriculture, airplanes and other products.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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