Tariffs on Chinese goods to remain in place, Trump says

Published on
March 20, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump will not suspend hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs his administration has imposed on Chinese goods, despite calls from U.S. business associations to do so to alleviate economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday, 18 March, more than 160 business groups belonging to Americans for Free Trade wrote a letter to Trump asking for the suspension of tariffs on Chinese-made goods, claiming that doing so would give the U.S. economy a USD 75 billion (EUR 70.3 billion) boost, equivalent to 0.4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

“This is an action that the administration can take today without waiting on authorization from Congress, and we urge President Trump to act without further delay,” Americans for Free Trade spokesman Jonathan Gold told the Wall Street Journal.

However, in a press conference the same day, Trump said he won’t suspend the tariffs that were not removed as part of the Phase One trade deal signed in January.

“There's no reason to do that,” Trump said. “I can’t imagine Americans asking for that. It could be that China will ask for a suspension or something. We’ll see what happens. China is having a very rough time.”

Trump said China had not asked for the tariffs – currently in place on more than USD 360 billion (EUR 337 billion) – to be removed.

“They haven't even spoken to me. China hasn’t asked me to do that,” Trump said.

Inside the White House, a debate has taken place as to whether tariff relief should be part of an economic relief packaged aimed at reducing the impact of the coronavirus on U.S. businesses and consumers, according to The New York Times.  The U.S. Labor Department reported a 30 percent increase in unemployment claims last week, one of the largest increases in the history of the department’s record-keeping.

However, in an interview with C-SPAN last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “general tariff relief is not on the table.”

Heightened tensions between the U.S. and China related to their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic “is now throwing into question whether the two sides will enter into a second phase of negotiations to address some of the more systemic issues that have plagued the U.S.-China trade relationship,” Bloomberg reported.

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