“We’re putting the trade war on hold,” Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday, adding that the U.S. and China agreed to a framework whereby China would buy more goods from the U.S. in order to make up for the trade deficit between the two countries.
The announcement came after top Chinese officials visited Washington last week for negotiations on the Trump administration’s trade policies. The president had previously revealed plans to impose tariffs on $150 billion on Chinese imports, a move that angered conservatives economists and members of his own party on Capitol Hill. China responded at the time by threatening tariffs on American goods, which could have sparked an all-out trade war.
Mnuchin declined to discuss the details of the framework, which the White House and Beijing said included “meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a statement on Sunday commending President Donald Trump but warned that the negotiators “shouldn’t blow it” by allowing intellectual-property concerns and Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE—which has been the target of and has violated U.S. sanctions—to go unaddressed.
“[Trump] could always decide to put the tariffs back on if China doesn’t go through with their commitment,” said Mnuchin, addressing concerns that a simple promise from China to buy more U.S. products wouldn’t be sufficient.
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said on ABC’s This Week that ZTE would not “get off scot-free,” but added that the U.S. was willing to work with China on “some small changes around the edges” to the company.
The U.S. trade deficit with China topped $375 billion last year. Kudlow said China would increase its purchases of American goods by a “rough ballpark estimate” of $200 billion.