President Donald Trump said Friday he has not agreed to scrap tariffs on Chinese goods, dampening hopes about a coming resolution to a jarring trade conflict.
“They’d like to have a rollback. I haven’t agreed to anything,” he told reporters before departing the White House on his way to Georgia. “China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback because they know I won’t do it.”
Stocks fell to their session lows following Trump’s comments, as optimism had risen about the prospects of the U.S. scrapping duties.
Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson Gao Feng said Thursday that negotiators from Washington and Beijing “agreed to remove the additional duties imposed on each other’s products in different phases after they make progress” in striking a trade deal, according to a CNBC translation. Gao did not specify how much of the tariffs the world’s two largest economies would revoke.
The U.S. and China have worked to sign what the White House has described as a “phase one” trade deal. Trump hopes to resolve outstanding gripes with Beijing’s trade practices, including forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft, while securing more Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural goods.
The Trump administration has slapped tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese goods, while Beijing has put duties on about $110 billion in American products. China has pushed for the U.S. to remove tariffs, which have the potential to wreak havoc on the global economy, as part of an agreement.
The White House declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.
Skepticism quickly grew Thursday about China’s statement that the U.S. agreed to roll back tariffs. Some administration officials and outside advisors opposed the prospect of scrapping duties, worrying it would reduce American leverage in ongoing talks, Reuters reported.
On Thursday night, Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro also denied the reports. He told Fox Business Network that “the only person who can make [the decision to roll back tariffs] is Donald J. Trump.”
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have looked for a venue to sign the first piece of the trade deal. They had planned to sign the agreement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Chile later this month, before that country’s president canceled the event due to protests.
On Friday, Trump said he and his Chinese counterpart would sign the first part of the deal in the United States. He has previously suggested the sides could meet in Iowa for the signing.