US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer - Photo: AFP.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The United States (US) will keep more than US$360 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods it has levied against China since 2018, despite the world’s two largest economies sign a phase-one deal that schedules on Wednesday in Washington, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday evening (01/14).

“These tariffs will stay in place until there’s a phase two. If the president gets a phase two quickly, he’ll consider releasing tariffs as part of phase two. If not, there won’t be any tariff relief. So it has nothing to do with the election or anything else. There are no secret agreements,” Mnuchin told AP.

Mnuchin’s statement comes hours before President Donald Trump is slated to sign the phase one trade agreement with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He at the White House on Wednesday at 11.30 am. Officials have said before they will release the text of the 86-page agreement in conjunction with the signing and denied that there’s a plan to cut duties further.

New data showed that the costs of Trump’s trade wars were proving more widespread, deeper and longer-lasting to American manufacturing competitiveness and jobs than previously believed.

Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said earlier there was no agreement in place with China on further tariff reductions. In a joint statement, they said all aspects of the phase one trade deal with China would be made public on Wednesday, except a confidential annex that will detail US products and services to be purchased by China.

“The only non-public component of the agreement is a confidential annex with detailed purchase amounts, which has been previously described,” they said, stressing there are no other oral or written agreements between the US and China on these matters, and there is no agreement for a future reduction in tariffs. Any rumors to the contrary are categorically false.

After the phase one deal was reached last month, Washington agreed to suspend tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese-made cellphones, laptop computers and other goods that were due to take effect on Dec 15 and to halve existing tariffs on $120 billion of other goods to 7.5 percent. It kept in place 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion of other Chinese goods.

In recent days, the administration has also been working in other ways to lay the groundwork for the deal and the negotiations on stickier issues such as China’s vast system of industrial subsidies that are expected to be included in the next phase of talks.

On Monday, the Trump administration reversed a decision to label China a currency manipulator in what was widely seen as a concession to Beijing. The US, European Union, and Japan also announced that they had reached agreement on proposed new global rules for industrial subsidies in a move that will increase pressure on Beijing over the issue.

Meanwhile, Vice Premier Liu He, who will be signing the deal on China’s behalf, reportedly met with American business leaders including Tom Donohue, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce, and officials from the US-China Business Council ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony. Negotiators from both sides are due to have dinner together Tuesday.

The timetable would allow Trump to keep existing levies in place until after voters decide whether he should get a second term, pushing off an issue that could prove objectionable to his core supporters. The US presidential election is set for Nov. 3. Trump has claimed the duties on China as one of his greatest economic achievements, labeling himself “Tariff Man.”

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com