March 28, 2018 / 6:53 PM / 23 days ago

Trump's China tariffs may not begin until June: U.S. officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods may not be imposed until early June, administration officials said on Wednesday, with public consultations and potential tariff revisions buying time for negotiations to forestall them.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing on "President Trump's 2018 Trade Policy Agenda" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he anticipates about 60 days worth of public comment on a soon-to-be published tariff list, but added that it would take years to bring the U.S.-China trading relationship “to a good place.”

Speaking on CNBC television, Lighthizer said the list totaling more than $50 billion would include “largely high-technology things” chosen by a computer algorithm to maximize pain on Chinese exporters while minimizing pain on U.S. consumers.

The tariffs are meant to punish China over U.S. allegations that Beijing systematically misappropriated American intellectual property and to prompt changes in various Chinese government policies aimed at forcing technology transfers.

“We’ll announce them before very long and then we’ll go through a 60-day period where we’ll give the public a chance to comment on the good and the bad things in there,” Lighthizer said of the tariffs.

Previously, the USTR had identified a 30-day period for written public comments on the tariff list, which must be published by April 6 under the proclamation that Trump signed last week.

A Trump administration official said that an estimated second 30-day period would provide time for a public hearing on the tariff list and for the filing and review of post-hearing briefs to rebut testimony.

“The 60 days refers to the time frame anticipated for public response. A determination on a final list and an effective date would be made thereafter,” the official said, adding that the full process could take longer than 60 days.

Asked on CNBC whether negotiations with Beijing could avoid tariffs, Lighthizer said: “I think there is hope.”

He said the two countries had different economic systems and there would be “a certain amount of tension between the two.”

The trade ambassador made no mention of discussions between senior Trump cabinet officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and their Chinese counterparts to discuss potential solutions to avoid tariffs.

A person familiar with the discussions told Reuters that the list of U.S. demands included a reduction in China’s 25 percent tariff on autos and greater access for U.S. firms to China’s financial sector.

Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Grant McCool

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