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Trump Denies Agreeing to Roll Back China Tariffs

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United States trade relations continue to be a roller coaster ride for companies caught in the fray.

After China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday that both sides had agreed to a phased rollback of some already in place tariffs, President Donald Trump refuted the claim Friday.

When asked about China’s claim, Trump told reporters on the White House lawn before departing for Georgia, “Well, they’d like to have a roll back, I haven’t agreed to anything. China would like to get somewhat of a rollback—not a complete rollback because they know I won’t do it.”

From there the president carried on a familiar refrain, noting his contentment without a deal for the time being because “We’re taking in billions of dollars, I’m very happy. China would like to make a deal much more than I would,” he said.

The comment, which came after what had begun to feel like an optimistic outlook on trade relations between the U.S. and China, runs counter to the tone set by China Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng Thursday.

“Both sides agreed to remove the additional tariffs imposed in phases as progress is made on the agreement,” he said, adding that should the two parties reach a deal, they would simultaneously rollback additional existing tariffs “in the same proportion.”

Beyond making it clear that he’s made no such agreements, President Trump said nothing further on a date or place for signing a phase-one trade deal.

The back-and-forth on trade relations has had the stock market reacting in much the same manner.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 60 points following the news and recovered to down 47 points, or 0.17 percent at publishing time. The S&P 500 Index and the Nasdaq Composite both took a temporary plunge but had returned to positive Thursday afternoon.

Still, it’s a wait-and-see period of what will actually happen next. But President Trump’s plays may be provoking enough to get some sort of a deal done.

“I think it’s fair to say that the administration has gotten China’s attention via these measures,” Bill Jackson, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Textiles, said speaking at the United States Fashion Industry Association’s (USFIA) Apparel Importers Trade and Transportation Conference in New York City Thursday. “But I believe that we are working towards the conclusion or resolution of that announced in the phase one agreement that folks are hoping to see very soon.”

USTR, Jackson said, has been “working hard” on the initial trade deal and working with negotiators from China “on an almost daily basis.”

“We’re working toward the completion of a phase one agreement that will address many of the issues,” he said. “It won’t be the final agreement but the president is committed to having a fully enforceable agreement that has meaningful outcomes and I think that we’re on the way to achieving that.”

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