Feb. 8, 2019

Tariff Insider: February 8, 2019

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The Big News: Trump Says He and Xi Won’t Meet Before March 1st

When asked by reporters on Thursday whether he would be meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1st deadline for increased tariffs, President Trump responded “no.” He said the two may meet later, but this news confirms some fears that a trade deal between the U.S. and China won’t be made before tariffs are set to spike on March 1st.

That said, U.S. chief trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to continue trade talks in Beijing next week. According to Lighthizer, last week’s meetings were significant in that the U.S. and China are still in trade discussions, even if the two sides have yet to decide on a draft framework that was supposed to be agreed upon by the March deadline. The two countries still have considerable issues to work through, such as how to ensure that any agreements reached are enforceable.

Last week’s talks did result in the purchase of one million tons of soybeans by China last Friday. China had agreed to buy five million tons of the once-profitable U.S. export during the discussions, although there was no mention of lowering the tariffs that had caused China’s import drop.

In other news:

Trump addresses trade war in State of the Union: During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump said that the trade deal with China would have to address the U.S.’s trade deficit and Chinese policy changes. He specifically referenced “unfair trade practices,” “theft of American jobs and wealth,” and “[China] stealing our intellectual property.”

Lighthizer’s hometown shapes his trade agenda: U.S. Trade Representative and chief trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio in the 1950s, when the factory town thrived on the steel industry. Since then, many of the factories have left and taken jobs with them. Those who know Lighthizer say that the economic changes to his own small town have shaped his trade views, solidifying his stance that U.S. trade policy has “devastated American manufacturing.”

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