WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will maintain tariffs on Chinese goods until the completion of a second phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday, a day before the two sides are to sign an interim deal.
Mnuchin told reporters that President Donald Trump could consider easing tariffs if the world’s two largest economies move quickly to seal a follow-up agreement.
“If the president gets a Phase 2 in place quickly, he’ll consider releasing tariffs as part of Phase 2,” Mnuchin said.
Trump is slated to sign the Phase 1 trade agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT). The signing occurs a week before the U.S. Senate is due to begin its impeachment trial of the U.S. president.
Trump became only the third U.S. president to be impeached when the House last month approved charges that he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation into Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden and obstructed Congress.
Concerns about the trade deal weighed on U.S. stocks on Tuesday, sending shares lower after a Bloomberg report suggested U.S. tariffs could remain in place until after the November presidential election.
New data showed that the costs of Trump’s trade wars were proving more widespread, deeper and longer-lasting to American manufacturing competitiveness and jobs than previously believed.
Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said earlier there was no agreement in place with China on further tariff reductions.
In a joint statement, they said all aspects of the Phase 1 trade deal with China would be made public on Wednesday, except a confidential annex that will detail U.S. products and services to be purchased by China.
“There are no other oral or written agreements between the United States and China on these matters, and there is no agreement for future reduction in tariffs. Any rumours to the contrary are categorically false,” they said.
After the Phase 1 deal was reached last month, Washington agreed to suspend tariffs on $160 billion (123 billion pounds) in Chinese-made cellphones, laptop computers and other goods that were due to take effect on Dec. 15, and to halve existing tariffs on $120 billion (92 billion pounds) of other goods to 7.5%. It kept in place 25% tariffs on $250 billion of other Chinese goods.
U.S. companies have paid $46 billion in tariffs since Trump began restructuring relationships with nearly all of Washington’s major trading partners, U.S. data showed.
Trump insists the tariffs are paid by the countries against which they are levied, but U.S. economists and businesses say they bear the brunt of the costs.
Americans for Free Trade, a coalition of more than 150 business associations that oppose tariffs, said the Phase 1 trade deal would do little to alleviate the burden of billions of dollars in tariffs being paid by U.S. businesses.
“The vast majority of the tariffs – which are taxes paid by Americans and not China – will remain in place, continuing to damage the American economy,” said spokesman Jonathan Gold.
Reporting by Makini Brice, Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney