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Trump, China trade war: Mnuchin wants to lift tariffs to get trade deal

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and some Trump administration officials are pushing for the US to lift tariffs on Chinese goods to calm worried investors and get Beijing on board with a larger trade deal, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mnuchin has brought up the idea of removing some or all tariffs on Chinese goods as an incentive for the Chinese to agree to a deal. More hawkish members of President Donald Trump’s trade team, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lead negotiator with Beijing, are against such a move.

The US currently has tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into the country.

Lighthizer has expressed concern that lifting the tariffs would squander any leverage the US has on China and would result in a less favorable deal, according to the Journal. Trump’s decades-long preference for tariffs and hard-nosed trade views have usually hewed closer to Lighthizer’s opinions than Mnuchin’s.

But according to the Journal, Trump has pressured Lighthizer in recent weeks to reach a deal and avoid a possibly devastating escalation of the trade war.

The US and China are currently in the midst of a trade war ceasefire, with no new tariffs or increase in duties allowed to go into effect until March 1. After that deadline, the US’s 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods is set to increase to 25%. Trump has also threatened to place tariffs on the remaining $267 billion worth of Chinese goods that have yet to be caught up in the trade war.

US officials and Chinese officials have met in recent weeks to try and hash out a deal on trade. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the country’s top economic official, is scheduled to come to Washington, DC, on January 30 for talks.

The Treasury Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

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