WASHINGTON — U.S. Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin said Sunday President Donald Trump would be “perfectly happy” to tax more imports from China if he cannot reach a trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Both presidents are scheduled to meet later this month at the Group of 20 meeting in Japan.
“We made enormous progress, I think we had a deal that was almost 90% done,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “China wanted to go backwards on certain things” — a charge Beijing denies.
“We’ve stopped negotiating,” Mnuchin said, with the next steps depending on Trump’s meeting with Xi in Osaka at the G-20 summit of leaders of major economies June 28-29.
“The president will make a decision (on tariffs) after the meeting,” Mnuchin said. “I believe if China is willing to move forward on the terms that we were discussing, we’ll have an agreement. If they’re not, we will proceed with tariffs.”
Trump has already imposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, but now is thinking about taxing an additional $325 billion worth of Chinese products. That would include nearly everything China exports to the U.S. The world’s two biggest economies have sparred for months over a trade deal, but have not been able to reach an agreement.
Trump’s threatened tariff hike came as G-20 finance ministers meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, said trade and geopolitical conflicts are risking global economic growth, but at the U.S. insistence, dropped a call to “recognize the pressing need to resolve trade tensions.”
“Global growth appears to be stabilizing and is generally projected to pick up moderately later this year and into 2020,” the finance chiefs, including Mnuchin, said in an end-of-meeting communique. “However, growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside. Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks and stand ready to take further action.”
The International Monetary Fund warned last week that a continuing U.S.-China standoff on tariffs could cut a half-percentage point from the global economy in 2020.
Meanwhile, China vowed Sunday to build what it calls a strong firewall against attempts to restrict its ability to technologically innovate.
“China … will never allow certain countries to use China’s technology to contain China’s development and suppress Chinese enterprise,” the main state-run newspaper declared.
China plans to announce details of its plans in the near future.
The Chinese statement did not mention any country by name, but the United States has restricted U.S. firms from selling technology to China’s Huawei, suspecting the company of building spyware into its telecommunications products.
The U.S. has also warned its allies against the alleged risk in buying Huawei technology.