US President Donald Trump denied a claim by Beijing that he was willing to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods as part of an interim trade deal.
Asked by reporters at the White House on Friday if he would cancel punitive tariffs, Trump said: “They'd like to have a rollback. I haven't agreed to anything.”
“China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback, because they know I won't do it,” he said. “Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do.”
Ministry spokesman Gao Feng had previously said: “In the past two weeks, top negotiators have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving issues of core concern. Both sides agreed to remove the additional tariffs imposed in phases as progress is made on the agreement.
“If China and the US reach a phase one deal, both sides should roll back existing additional tariffs in the same proportion simultaneously.”
An initial plan for the two presidents to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile on November 16 and 17 was scrapped when the Chilean government cancelled the forum because of social unrest.
Trump and other US officials have since suggested that a meeting could be held in Iowa, Hawaii or Alaska.
Asked on Friday whether the summit would take place at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump said: “I don’t think so”.
Andrew Mertha, director of the China studies programme at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said it was hard to tell whether Trump’s denial of agreeing to a tariff rollback was “a strategy, as in Trump seeking to show his base [and Congress] that he is not weakened by the impeachment inquiry”, or “a synaptic reaction to being denied the opportunity to make the announcement himself”.
Another possibility, Mertha said, is that Trump’s “trade people are privately telling him that he should hold out for something better. They want more structural changes, while [Trump] just wants a deal that looks tough”.