Trump delays more tariffs on China in hopes of a trade deal breakthrough

President Donald Trump announced that he is holding off on increasing tariffs on approximately $200 billion in Chinese goods, crediting “substantial progress” in trade talks with Beijing.

The postponement came just days before the March 1 deadline, after which Trump had said he would increase tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion in Chinese products.

His decision to pull back on those additional tariffs pauses what would have been a dramatic escalation in a trade spat between the US and China. And it comes after about a week of intense negotiations in Washington between American officials and their Chinese counterparts.

But it’s still a bit unclear how much real progress has been made in those negotiations, and what, if anything, has been agreed to so far.

Trump touted the progress on “important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues,” he tweeted on Sunday evening.

He added that he anticipated a future summit at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, with Chinese President Xi Jinping to finalize a deal at the end of the month.

“A very good weekend for U.S. & China!” he tweeted.

Trump did not specify a new deadline for potential tariff increases if talks fall apart — which the stock markets, at least, took as a sign of a potential breakthrough.

The US and China have been in talks since Trump first placed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports last year; the two sides reached a temporary 90-day truce in December, which has now been extended, per Trump’s tweets.

But skepticism about the contents of a deal remains, as American and Chinese officials have offered few specifics on the terms of what might be in a final agreement.

There does seem to be some consensus on agriculture; Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said last week that China had committed to buying an additional 10 million metric tons of US soybeans.

Trump administration and Chinese officials also said Friday that they had reached some sort of deal on China’s currency manipulation — though here, too, the details are scarce on what that deal entails or how it would be enforced.

While these indicate potential wins for the Trump administration, the precise mechanics really are going to matter. Some experts have questioned whether the Trump administration may be willing to settle for easier wins, such as getting China to buy more US products, at the expense of addressing the knottier problems in the US-China trade relationship, like technology transfer — complaints from companies that say China requires them to share tech to do business — or intellectual property theft.

American officials are expected to travel to China sometime before this tentative summit between Trump and Xi at Mar-a-Lago, according to the New York Times.

But “ultimately, I think the biggest decisions and some even smaller decisions will be made by President Xi and myself,” Trump told reporters on Friday in the Oval Office.

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