Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. said Wednesday the decision to delay tariffs on some Chinese goods was made to bolster American consumers, not as a “quid pro quo” to extract concessions from the Asian superpower.
“Nobody wants to take any chance of disrupting the Christmas season,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” adding the Trump administration wanted to be “a little extra-protective.”
The Trump administration said Tuesday it will delay part of the president’s plan to impose tariffs on a host of popular goods, putting them off until December. Stocks surged on Wall Street in the wake of the move, with retailers cheering the reprieve from the 10% tariffs on toys, electronics and some clothing imported from China.
Mr. Trump had scheduled the tariffs for Sept. 1 but they’ve been pushed back to Dec. 15, as the two superpowers struggle to reach a trade deal.
Free-market advocates saw the move as a tacit acknowledgment the cost of tariffs will be passed down to consumers. Mr. Trump argues there is no evidence that American purchasers are feeling the pain, but said he didn’t want to take any chances.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are expected to speak by phone in the coming weeks.
Things seemed on track earlier this year, yet the talks dissolved into a tit-for-tat tariff war and there’s been limited progress since May.
Mr. Ross said China “didn’t deliver” on its pledges to buy agricultural products and other aspects of an emerging agreement.
“Until something is really formally announced and mutually agreed, it’s a little premature to say where anybody is,” Mr. Ross said.
He said the U.S. wants to reduce the trade deficit with China and ensure the Chinese aren’t swiping intellectual property or closing off their markets to foreign entities.
Most importantly, the White House wants a deal that’s verifiable and enforceable.
“We need all three components, so it isn’t a question of just agreeing on something,” he said.
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