Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer provided more details on Monday about the recent turn in trade negotiations with China that led to President Donald Trump announcing over the weekend that tariffs would be hiked this Friday.
Mnuchin said that the talks changed direction over the weekend, describing China as moving “substantially backward.”
Lighthizer said that China is “reneging” on commitments it made in earlier talks, according to multiple reports from journalists briefed by the two men Monday afternoon.
“Over the course of the last week or so, we’ve seen an erosion in commitments by China, I would say retreating from commitments that have already been made, in our judgment,” Lighthizer said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Lighthizer also said that he would be filing a notice in the federal register about the tariff increase, adding that the tariffs would take effect immediately on Friday, according to Jonathan Swan of Axios.
The joint briefing by Mnuchin, often considered an advocate of a softer approach to China, and Lighthizer, one of the administration’s strongest China hawks, appeared to be aimed at sending the message that the Trump administration is not divided on the subject of the new tariffs in response to China changing stance in the trade talks.
It is also likely to quell speculation that Trump’s announcement of tariffs were mere “threats” or negotiating tactics rather than a firm policy decision.
Several journalists present at the briefing tweeted details.
NEW: (story tk): USTR Bob Lighthizer says he'll be issuing a Federal Register notice TOMORROW to raise the tariffs on $200b of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. He says the tariffs will kick in "the first minute" of Friday.
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) May 6, 2019
Secretary Mnuchin said Chinese Vice Premiere Liu is still coming w the trade delegation to Washington. “It did become particularly clear with some new information they were trying to go back on very clear language that had the potential to change the deal dramatically.” https://t.co/fpkZxZKchH
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 6, 2019
Continued: China’s vice premier will come to Washington for talks Thursday evening and Friday. Mnuchin says opportunity to get talks “back on track” – but tariff hike is likely to have already gone into effect https://t.co/xqf2eRG5iX
— Kayla Tausche (@kaylatausche) May 6, 2019