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China’s Latest Trade Offer Could Take Tariffs Off the Table

The United States and China are reportedly close to finalizing a partial trade deal that could change the scope of the tariffs.

On Friday, following a phone call between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and China’s Vice Premier Liu He, USTR issued a statement saying the negotiators “made headway on specific issues and the two sides are close to finalizing some sections of the agreement.”

Trump initially announced the partial agreement on Oct. 11, saying, “We have come to a deal, pretty much,” and that the “phase one” deal was only subject to getting it written.

Under the as-yet unwritten agreement, the U.S. and China seem to have come to some consensus on intellectual property and financial services—and China, at least according to Trump, is expected to eventually purchase as much as $40 billion to $50 billion worth of agricultural products from the U.S.

“To show you how big that is, that would be two and a half, three times what China had purchased at its highest point thus far,” Trump said.

China has said it will purchase $20 billion worth of American agriculture products in year one. Trump is expecting that number to at least double from there.

As such, the U.S. agreed not to hike existing tariffs from 25 percent to 30 percent, which had been scheduled to increase on Oct. 15. The president hasn’t yet decided what he will do with the remaining tariffs that were set to roll out on Dec. 15, though Lighthizer said, “there’s plenty of time to make that decision.”

Beijing, however, wants the U.S. to nix the December tariffs altogether in exchange for its agreement to up agricultural buys.

According to Reuters, Beijing is also expected to seek elimination of the 15 percent tariffs the U.S. imposed on Sept. 1 following a flubbed round of talks.

“The Chinese want to get back to tariffs on just the original $250 billion in goods,” a U.S.-based source told Reuters.

As for where the talks—and tariffs—go from here, USTR said Friday, “Discussions will go on continuously at the deputy level, and the principals will have another call in the near future.”

The expectation is that President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sign the agreement at a summit in Chile next month.