Trump team rushes to find escape hatch for China tariffs

Source: Politico | September 12, 2019 | Ben White and Adam Behsudi

President Donald Trump’s top advisers are rushing to find an escape hatch for a series of tariff increases in the coming months, worried about the potential for further economic damage.

Many of the president’s top economic officials are trying to resurrect the terms they previously were negotiating with China, a deal officials said was “90 percent” done before a sudden impasse this summer, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

That approach was rejected by the Chinese at the time, so it’s unclear whether the new effort will overcome those hurdles and deliver U.S.-sought commitments from China on agriculture, intellectual property and technology transfer.

The goal of the internal administration discussions is to forestall October tariff increases and the next tariffs set to take effect in December, with some advisers arguing that the economic hit is real and must be mitigated prior to the election year. But the discussions remain fluid and Trump has yet to endorse an approach.

The internal discussions were confirmed by two other people close to the talks, who cautioned that nothing has been finalized.

What’s different now is that administration officials are hoping to leverage a possible stalling of additional tariffs to get China to make commitments on intellectual property, said one of the people.

“We are looking for the Chinese to give us what we asked for in May,” the person said.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials have signaled that they are willing to negotiate after Trump’s blowup in July led to a massive escalation in the tariffs. The economic impact of the trade fight on China is not fully known, but economic indicators show that the country’s economy is being hurt.

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