The Trump administration is considering eliminating tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports to spur progress toward a trade deal, less than two weeks before a high-level delegation from Beijing is scheduled to arrive in Washington for talks starting Jan. 30.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in recent weeks has proposed a tariff reduction as an incentive for China to sweeten its offer to the United States, according to two people familiar with the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Administration hard-liners, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, are opposed to eliminating the tariffs before China has taken irreversible steps to meet U.S. demands.
President Donald Trump last year imposed tariffs on Chinese industrial and consumer goods as leverage in talks aimed at shrinking the U.S. trade deficit and forcing China to abandon discriminatory trading practices.
If negotiations do not succeed by March 1, tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent. Officials now are debating whether to instead eliminate the levies on some or all of the affected Chinese goods.
After years of tough talk toward China, the president in recent months has warmed to the idea of striking a deal with Beijing. The idea of an early tariff cut has not yet reached his desk, with the administration scrambling to manage a government shutdown that was in its 27th day Thursday.
But weakness on Wall Street and mounting unease among Trump’s political supporters hurt by the tariff war are triggering the president’s dealmaking instincts, the people familiar with the discussions said.
“He’s driving toward a deal,” said one business executive who asked not to be named, to avoid angering the administration. “He wants a deal and may be willing to settle for not very much to get it.”
The administration has insisted for months that it would not remove tariffs unless China agreed to significantly higher purchases from U.S. businesses and sweeping changes in its state-dominated economic system.