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December 14, 2018 12:00 PM, EST

White House Said to Officially Delay China Tariff Hike to March

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The Trump administration is making official its decision to delay until March 1 a tariff hike on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%, according to two people familiar with the matter.

A notice in the Federal Register is expected to be published Dec. 14, the people said. The decision cements an agreement reached Dec. 1 between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a dinner on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. The leaders agreed to postpone a further escalation in the tariff war for 90 days while they work out a trade deal. The tariff increase was initially planned for Jan. 1.

The White House didn’t immediately have a comment.

In the past two weeks, Beijing has pledged to remove retaliatory tariffs on U.S. automobiles, buy a significant amount of U.S. soybeans, go after intellectual property violators and scale back its strategy to dominate high-tech sectors in the next decade.

Still, Trump administration officials caution that China’s promises to date are not enough to break the impasse.

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump (John Gastaldo/San Diego Union-Tribune)

“They’ve started to make some very early-stage, very preliminary, but very welcome moves,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg Television on Dec. 13, while adding that more action was needed to address U.S. concerns.

Clete Willems, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said Dec. 13 he doesn’t want to prejudge how much progress can be made in the 90-day period but that he was hoping China could address structural issues quickly.

“Obviously China is not going to have a market economy on March 1. I don’t think anyone expects that every single problem we have with China is going to be dealt with by that time and that probably would be a difficult expectation to meet,” Willems said at an event hosted by the Washington International Trade Association.

“But there are certainly some things that they can do we believe to deal with some of the structural issues we’ve identified in a relatively short period of time,” he said.