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White House: No changes yet for China on tariffs

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-03-13 23:57

The United States is talking with the European Union on the new steel and aluminum tariffs while indicating there is no change so far on the China front.

US President Donald Trump signed proclamations last Thursday to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports effective March 23, but he mentioned possible exemptions for Mexico and Canada, two countries that are renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and for other US military allies if they can justify them.

Trump first announced the tariffs on March 1 after a Commerce Department investigation under Section 232 of the US Trade Expansion Act of 1962 that found the imports threaten to impair US national security.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, asked on Monday if Trump will follow through on his tariff measures on China, said the administration's position hasn't changed.

"The president has been clear for quite some time what his position is and what his authority is under the 232 statute, and we are moving forward," she told the daily briefing.

Sanders praised the Chinese leadership's help on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but reiterated that Trump wants to make sure that China does not "take advantage of us when it comes to trade".

"We are going to continue to push for what's best for America," she said.

Trump said last Thursday that the US is negotiating with China. "We're in the midst of a big negotiation. I don't know if anything will come of it. They have been very helpful," Trump said.

He tweeted last Wednesday that China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a $1 billion reduction in their trade deficit with the US.

"Our relationship with China has been a very good one, and we look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!" he tweeted.

The comments have been perceived as a possible avenue for the two countries to reach a solution and avoid the chance of a trade war, which has many worried.

China's Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said on Sunday that China has no intention to start a trade war with the US and will not initiate one, but the country can cope with any challenge and will defend its national interests.

"Trade wars can result in no winners, but only disasters for the two countries and the rest of the world," he said.

China is not among the top 10 steel importers to the US, and US lawmakers and US trade partners have continued to push back on the steel tariffs.

Trump tweeted on Monday morning that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will talk with the EU about eliminating its tariffs against the US, while a European Commission spokesman said earlier Monday that it expects talks this week with the US "at several levels" over the steel and aluminum tariffs.

The EU earlier announced a provisional list of items that it would use in retaliation against Trump's tariffs.

Many Republican lawmakers have been pressing Trump to abandon the tariff plan.

Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, has introduced a bill to give Congress oversight over any trade decision, including new tariffs.

"I will work with my colleagues to use Congress' Article I power to make sure these tax hikes are never enforced," Lee said in a statement last week.

US voters are split on Trump's steel tariffs. About 40 percent of some 2,000 registered voters surveyed said they support the decision, while 35 percent oppose it, according to a poll last Thursday by Politico/Morning Consult.

Contact with the writer at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com.

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