China and the United States have agreed to roll back tariffs on each others’ goods in a “phase one” trade deal if it is completed, officials from both sides said on Thursday, sparking division among some advisers to President Donald Trump.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry, without laying out a timetable, said the two countries had agreed to cancel the tariffs in phases.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the rollback would be part of the first phase of a trade agreement that is still being put to paper for Trump and President Xi Jinping to sign.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told Fox News Channel the United States is “very, very optimistic” about completing a deal that would defuse a 16-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
“I cannot get ahead of the talks with China, but we are very, very optimistic that we will reach a deal soon,” she said.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, however, said in an interview with Fox Business Network: “There is no agreement at this time to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of the phase one deal.”
“They’re just negotiating in public, trying to push this in a direction,” Navarro said of reports he said were put out by “Chinese propaganda press.”
Experts warn the pact could still fall apart. U.S. officials said a lot of work remained to be done when Trump announced the outlines of an interim deal last month.
Trump has used tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods as his primary weapon in the protracted trade war. The prospect of lifting them, even in phases, has drawn fierce opposition from advisers in and outside of the White House who remain wary of giving up a key aspect of U.S. leverage.