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Trump Says Trade War May Be Averted If China's Xi Lowers Tariffs

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(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said the U.S. may be able to avoid a trade war with China if Beijing is willing to open its market more to American products, offering a path away from a confrontation over tariffs.

A week after escalating trade tensions with his threat to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese products, Trump said Thursday the two countries ultimately may end up levying no new tariffs on each other.

‘Now we’re really negotiating and I think they’re going to treat us really fairly,” Trump said. “I think they want to.”

Trump’s remarks during a meeting with Republican governors and lawmakers from farm states reinforced conciliatory signals the administration has been sending this week on the trade dispute. The GOP political leaders are especially concerned about the impact trade retaliation from China could have on U.S. agriculture, which relies heavily on exports to China. The Asian nation said listed U.S. soybeans and pork among its prime targets for proposed retaliatory duties.

Taxes, Tariffs

Trump cited a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. president interprets as a signal China is about to open its markets to more U.S. goods.

“He’s going to get rid of a lot of taxes and tariffs,” Trump said of Xi.

Xi pledged a “new phase of opening up” Tuesday in a keynote address to the Boao Forum for Asia. While the speech offered little new policy and made no mention of Trump, Xi affirmed or expanded on proposals to increase imports, lower foreign-ownership limits on manufacturing and expand protection to intellectual property -- all issues central to the U.S. president’s trade complaints.

Trump clearly regarded the remarks as conciliatory, and said again Thursday that it was a “good speech.”

“Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers,” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday. “Also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers. We will make great progress together!”

Talks between the world’s biggest economies broke down last week after the Trump administration demanded steps to curtail China’s support for high-technology industries, a person familiar with the situation said. The U.S. has accused China of unfairly subsidizing targeted sectors and forcing foreign companies to transfer technology in areas like robotics, aerospace and artificial intelligence.

The U.S. hasn’t announced a date it intends to impose tariffs on an initial list of $50 billion in Chinese goods. The administration is also expected to release a separate list for the additional proposed tariffs covering $100 billion in imports from China.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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