Free Trade

Mnuchin: 'We're Putting the Trade War on Hold'

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Trump administration is withdrawing plan to impose 25 percent tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese imports.

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Damir Sagolj/REUTERS/Newscom

The Trump administration's trade war with China is over—or at least it's not starting just yet.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, said the administration is withdrawing its plan to impose 25 percent tariffs on more than 1,300 Chinese-made goods valued at more than $150 billion while the United States and China continue trade negotiations.

"We're putting the trade war on hold," Mnuchin said. "Right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework."

There were two major developments this week that may have influenced the administration's shift. First, as Mnuchin suggested, there were two days of intense negotiations between the two countries, which concluded Saturday with the release of a joint statement including several vague promises about China's intention to buy more American products. Second, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative held three days of hearings on the proposed tariffs, with dozens of American business owners expressing their anger and frustration with the proposal, which they said would do significant damage to the domestic economy.

The Trump administration has already gone ahead with tariffs on steel and aluminum, imposed on supposed national security grounds. The second round of tariffs specifically targeting Chinese goods were to be issued under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which allows the president to use tariffs as a means of resolving trade disputes or to punish unfair trade practices. The Trump administration has sold the tariffs as a way to close America's trade deficit with China—even though a trade deficit isn't really a problem.

Trump's defenders are likely to seize on Sunday's news as proof that the president was always using the tariff threat as a negotiating tactic to bring China to the table. That may be true, but it's too soon to tell. The concessions made this week by China—most importantly, a promise that China will increase purchases of American imports by $200 billion—sound like a victory for the administration, but leave many details unanswered. It's also unclear whether China has actually agreed to the $200 billion figure, as The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Chinese officials had refused to make that commitment.

Even if China did agree to the figure, economists say it would be difficult for America to increase exports by "anything close to that figure," The New York Times reports.

And using tariffs as a negotiating tactic with China might have soured the trade relationship between the United States and Europe. Trade wars, even ones that are narrowly avoided, are complicated and not easy to win.

Still, removing the immediate threat of tariffs is a clear victory for American consumers and businesses. If the tactic helps ease tensions between the United States and China, even better.

NEXT: D.C. City Councilman Tried to Get Anti-Stalking Order Against Freelance Journalist

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  1. We’ve gone from “Trade deficits are actually good – my tobacconist explained it to me” to “Trade deficits are bad but you probably can’t eliminate them completely.”

    Progress not perfection…..

    1. I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that?s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less.
      This is what I do…>>>> http://www.profit70.com

  2. Must be tough to negotiate against both China and US corporate media.

  3. You mean Pres. Trump is not going to rework economic fundamentals to enable half-educated, unskilled, backward, rural white males to prosper (and to do so at the expense of the educated, accomplished Americans they resent)?

    Who could have seen this coming?

    Other than educated citizens residing in modern, successful communities, I mean.

    1. What’s it like to be so envious? Seriously, you’re incredibly focused on people you call “half-educated, unskilled, backward, rural”?what is it about these people you envy? Because at this point, it’s pretty obvious that you have an obsession with them, in a way that suggests you secretly envy them. What’s up with that?

      1. I know the disaffected yahoos better than most of the people in my current social circles because I was raised in a yahoo town. Most educated, accomplished, reasonable citizens are unaware of the depth of failure and deficiency that exists in our left-behind rural and southern stretches. I dislike the way they are turning our backwaters into islands of ignorant, intolerant, economically irrelevant failure, in part because no one should have to live in those circumstances in 2018’s America and in part because it creates risk for the young people who need to escape.

        I do not envy the people who stayed behind, choosing quick pocket money — a job at the car wash, or in the family’s one-truck, no license roofing business — over education. Who stuck with a declining town and dying industries against all evidence. Who became parents before being able to lead or fund a family, then sent the children to downscale religious schools. Who still stew in the bigotry and backwardness that infused these backwoods towns during the 1960s.

        These folks are unwilling to accept responsibility, so they blame others — gays, blacks, immigrants, uppity women, Jews, bankers, Muslims, professors, atheists (and they’d blame agnostics if they understood that word), reporters, anyone educated or successful, whomever is handy — for their largely self-inflicted problems. They see street pills, religion, tobacco, lottery tickets, guns, bigotry, cheap sixers, and Donald Trump as solutions.

        1. These areas could benefit greatly from immigrants, who could bring education, entrepreneurship, optimism, motivation, and other laudable attributes to towns desperate for them. In one more counterproductive mocking of good judgment and character, however, they scapegoat immigrants.

          I believe we should ensure a strong lifeline for the smart and ambitious young people who wish to seek the opportunity and education found elsewhere, on strong campuses and in modern, successful communities. I also hope I can regain my interest in helping the adults who suffer in these can’t-keep-up towns, but the hard turn toward bigotry and backwardness has cost them much of my sympathy.

          I talk about them because I understand them in ways most of my current neighbors and colleagues do not, and I recognize the stain and drain they constitute for America.

          1. My Protestant grandfather had a mother from Canada and a father from Wales. They conceived their first kid on a transatlantic steamship on which she was a passenger and he was a member of the crew. Her family contacted his family about the pregnancy. That is why they got married and moved to New York City.

            He spent WWI defending Upstate New York as part of a calvery unit thanks to the military’s intelligence tests. Then he earned a degree from NYU and became a therapist for returning veterans with mental traumas. He made a family in Idaho before divorcing. Next he married my Catholic grandmother and built a family in New York City.

            Some people easily jump across the red state/ blue state divide.

          2. Kirkland is the nom de plume for Louis the Sun King apparently.

            I’ve never seen someone who hates the proles as much as this wannabe aristocrat.

          3. Immigrants are disproportionately poor and uneducated.

            And I hate to break it to you, but the bet trajectory of migration in the US is away from the northern and coastal liberal metropolises toward the south and southwest.

            Perhaps in the 70s you also thought great northern progressive cities like Detroit and Cleveland were the vanguard while Atlanta and Houston were backwaters. By every metric, the opposite turned out to be true (and still is; far more Californians are moving to Texas than vice versa).

            1. I can count at least 2 California license plates a day in my area.

              California does not have a bunch of Georgians in that state looking for work.

        2. Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland|5.20.18 @ 4:44PM|#
          “I know the disaffected yahoos better than most of the people in my current social circles because I was raised in a yahoo town.”

          And you’ve remained a scumbag bigot ever since.

        3. These folks are Hillary supporters are unwilling to accept responsibility, so they blame others — gays, blacks, immigrants, uppity women, Jews, bankers, Muslims, professors, atheists (and they’d blame agnostics if they understood that word), reporters, anyone educated or successful, whomever is handy — for their largely self-inflicted problems.

        4. I know the disaffected yahoos better than most of the people in my current social circles because I was raised in a yahoo town.

          So you were raised in NYC … sorry to hear.

        5. One would be hard pressed to find even a neo Nazi who is as thoroughly hateful as you. I think you need to seriously re-examine your life. Your biggest accomplishment seems to be that you live in a city north of the Mason-Dixon line, as it seems to be the only thing you’re proud of.

        6. The characteristics you describe are indistinguishable from the urban poor. Maybe the problem isn’t where people are from, it’s more that having the attitude you describe “unwilling to accept responsibility”, leads to bigotry, backwardness, and poverty.

      2. You’re dealing with an ignorant autistic moron. He never offers actual substance, that would require thought.

    2. Well they do have an unfair leg up what with being educated and successful.

      1. “Well they do have an unfair leg up what with being educated and successful.”
        Assumption, and cite missing.
        Plus the assumption is extremely doubtful; an egotistical asshole like the rev would hardly be a candidate for success as an employee, and there is no evidence of his being other than a wage-earner.

        1. Wrong across the board, Sevo. But thanks for playing. Now get back to your inconsequential muttering . . .

      2. Let the eat cake, huh Tony? When did the new left become the old right?

      3. Are (mostly rich, white, pro-free market) successful people good now? I thought they were the scum of the earth keeping the uneducated poor down? Well, I guess tomorrow when identity politics or class warfare is the issue du jour they’ll be evil again.

  4. “Right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework.”

    Weren’t we told the tariffs *are* “the framework”?

  5. Trade wars, even ones that are narrowly avoided, are complicated and not easy to win.

    I hear different from people with literal months of international trade policy experience.

  6. Translation: Trump got his ass handed to him by China.

    1. “Translation: Trump got his ass handed to him by China.”

      Cite missing.

      1. Why did you feel the need to defend Trump by responding to that comment?

        1. Read up on the concessions china offered, such as reduction in their trade surplus, and learn why the comment was ignorant.

        2. Chipper Morning Baculum|5.20.18 @ 7:57PM|#
          “Why did you feel the need to defend Trump by responding to that comment?”

          Why do you assume I’m defending Trump when I call BS on BS?
          Why are YOU assuming that?

    2. China is opening up their markets more.

      Said there was almost no chance of them happening but negotiating requires ALL options being on tbe table.

      1. “China is opening up their markets more.”

        No they are not. Smoke and mirrors, that is all this is. Trump probably did get plastered by China, no one advocates sweeping tariffs one day to only another all of a sudden change their mind with few concessions thrown in so Trump can save a modicum of face.

        1. Once you say “Well, we won’t go HERE”, then you’re signalling that you are not remotely serious in your negotiation. You have to be willing to accept no deal or else you’re going to fail.

          Once you let a partner recognize how far you WILL go, they know exactly how far to push you. Because your red line, traditionally, is never actually your red line.

  7. And yet you’re still going to treat the next squirt of verbal diarrhea that shoots out of Trump’s face as if it means something. Get it through your thick skull, nothing Trump says means a damn thing. He’s a troll, stop feeding him.

    1. If you spent 5 minutes learning about the negotiations that took place prior to today, you may not come across as so ignorant.

    2. How about we not treat anyone who uses an idiotic term like verbal diarrhea seriously at all?

  8. Trump’s defenders are likely to seize on Sunday’s news as proof that the president was always using the tariff threat as a negotiating tactic to bring China to the table. That may be true, but it’s too soon to tell. The concessions made this week by China?most importantly, a promise that China will increase purchases of American imports by $200 billion?sound like a victory for the administration….

    Somehow Reason has skewed this massive victory for Trump’s brand of negotiation just like it skewed Trump setting this up as the worst thing eva. “That may be true, but it’s too soon to tell.” Reason thought it was not too soon to tell on Trump discussing tariffs months ago though.

    Free trade is best. The USA and China have managed trade and Trump just got the USA better terms for our managed trade.

    1. That’s a meaningless distinction. Unilateral free trade, even with trading partners who raise all sorts of their own obstacles, is better than cooperative managed trade. If you can’t grasp that fundamental economic fact, you are economically illiterate. Your opinion on economics is of no more use than trying to advise an architect when you refuse to admit that 2 + 2 = 4.

      1. As we currently have a trade imbalance with China (a rather large one), they can buy up American intellectual property, know how, corporations, and property in general. Good for the sellers as they get a better price, bad for the free world in that we are selling away our property to totalitarians that have no interest in liberty, freedom, rights, democracy, or anything we hold dear.

        Slow motion suicide. We will have to pay the piper one day sooner or later.

      2. Unilateral free trade, even with trading partners who raise all sorts of their own obstacles, is better than cooperative managed trade.

        This isn’t even remotely true in any sort of reasonable capacity. The obviousness of hitching your labor force to a socialist (or worse) regime is obnoxious.

        There’s certainly a case to be made for the US opening Chinese markets and China highlighting the socialist/totalitarian policies that the US Gov’t advances, but then that would be mutually managed trade. The notion that unilateral free trade is always an inherent good is between fantasy and zealotry.

    2. Free trade is best. The USA and China have managed trade and Trump just got the USA better terms for our managed trade.

      Am I supposed to be happy that the man who styles himself my master is whipping me slightly less?

      Get rid of all tariffs and restrictions on the American side and Devil take the Chinese.

      1. Yes, let’s not make any improvements to trade unless the solution is deemed perfect by a small group of people whose opinions do not represent the majority of the citizens, but trust us, they know best. Sounds like a plan. A bad one.

        1. So, my individual freedom stops meaning anything the moment I’m interacting with someone on the other side of an imaginary line?

          1. So, my individual freedom stops meaning anything the moment I’m interacting with someone on the other side of an imaginary line?

            Would you prefer it stop meaning anything when interacting with someone on the same side of the line?

    3. And this is why the government should manage our trade less, nor more. Unless you’d like your doctor, upon observing you’re missing a finger, to say, ‘well what’s the harm in cutting off the whole arm.’

  9. Trade wars, even ones that are narrowly avoided, are complicated and not easy to win.

    Trade wars are no more winnable than trying to see if you can starve your kids more than your neighbor starves his kids.

    1. Yeah, it is like when you put your kid on Ritalin, because there are 3 million Americans his age, 2,000 seats available at Harvard for his year, and the Rev. will say snide things about your family if he does not get into Harvard.

  10. Some Reason staff have just had a really tough time since January 20, 2017.

    Its funny to see them begrudgingly admit a Washington outsider putting America first might work better for Americans.

    1. For some Americans.
      SR&C has it exactly right.

    2. ‘Managed trade’ pust *some Americans* first and works better for *some Americans*. The rest of us can go hang? I should pay more for steel products, workers in industries that use steel products should get paid less or lose their jobs, all so that a handful of steel workers can get paid even more?

      1. Beat it kids! Come back when you’ve got connections!

      2. No, not at all. Unilateral free trade is the only approach that is fair to all Americans.
        The only way any subset of Americans can ‘benefit’ from “managed trade” or under any system of tariffs is for another subset, or set of subsets, to be made worse off.

        1. yes. that is what I said.

        2. Free trade takes equality on both sides. You may be shocked to learn this… China manipulates the trade markets.

          1. JesseAz|5.20.18 @ 9:56PM|#
            “Free trade takes equality on both sides.”

            Trade more free simply takes a lack of control on one side to benefit the side yielding that control.
            Did you not know that?

          2. No, it doesn’t. Chinam restricting the rights of its citizens doesn’t justify making Americans less free to trade with Chinese. Unilateral free trade is more productive than bilateral protectionism.

            1. ^^This

      3. You guys completely ignore geopolitics in your quest to embrace free trade more deeply than the next guy.

        We have a lot more jeans and iPhones now, but at the price of a future dominated by a communist, totalitarian, kleptocracy in Beijing. Not sure this is a good trade.

    3. I know that being a Trumpling makes it difficult for you to comprehend the distinction between rhetoric and action, but I would advise waiting to run your victory lap until after China actually finalizes and makes good on their vague promises (rather than just waiting out Trump’s administration), and the results are actually observable.

      1. It is amazing watching seething hatred of a man through writing. Is there one thing trump has done that is successful in your view?

  11. It is good that the trade war is on hold.

  12. Interesting that just after North Korea threatens to pull out of negotiations the US backs off on trade tariffs against China and sanctions on ZTE.

    Trump really really wants a shiny prize, you know, the one given out by non shithole Norwegians. It has nothing to do with US jobs. The NKs have never kept to any of the other deals they have made but then again neither does the US at this point. So it is all just a political reality show.

    China just this week began landing long range bombers on one of the new island bases they are building in the S China sea. There is not a damn thing we can do about it.

    1. “Interesting that just after North Korea threatens to pull out of negotiations the US backs off on trade tariffs against China and sanctions on ZTE.”

      Yeah, Elvis’ alien love child told him to cool it.
      BTW, you want the shiny side out on the aluminum foil.

      1. People often make that mistake.

        Shiny side in. The dull side scatters the probing rays.

        Like on a stealth plane.

        1. YOU should learn it.

    2. Once someone put that idea in his head… a Nobel on his shelf right next to the presidency… That might have been a stroke of genius. Surely even he knows that you can’t get it for just blowing stuff up (even if you can get it while doing so).

      Of course he can never follow through on anything like anyone with opposable thumbs, so he’ll cock up his attempt to win that trophy for sure, but maybe we’ll get something of a break in the meantime.

      1. Yassar Arafat? Oh wait, you’re right – spend a lifetime blowing shit up, then one day just stop, and get a Peace Prize.

      2. The Norwegians would do well to wait till the end of his term, give him an incentive. They fucked up giving it to Obama’s right away, so he could go off and blow up as much shit as he wanted afterward and not worry about it.

    3. “Interesting that just after North Korea threatens to pull out of negotiations the US backs off on trade tariffs against China and sanctions on ZTE.”

      For real. Trump got his dick yanked by China and he squealed like a stuck pig.

      I am going to mark this date on my calendar when I fully embraced the reality of our Communist overlords in Beijing eventual ascendancy. We do not have the strength, the moral fortitude, the smarts, or the balls to stand up to the Chinese. The United States was literally the only country telling China to go fuck themselves. Now we are kowtowing to them, saving jobs for a ZTE, a company who violated sanctions the United States imposed. We bowed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and now we are licking China’s nuts so we can have a pointless PR moment with Trump and Kim in Singapore.

      Now our reality is Gap apologizes to China for not including Taiwan and Arunachal-Pradesh and the 9 Dash Line as Chinese territory on one of their shirts, Daimler Chrysler apologizes for quoting the Dali Lama in an ad campaign, China militarizes the South China Sea, and we slowly watch Taiwan become further isolated as they lose diplomatic recognition.

      Everyone should learn Mandarin and get ready to embrace our totalitarian future.

  13. “The Trump administration’s trade war with China is over?or at least it’s not starting just yet.”

    Hate to say I told you so.

    The trade war never really got started. The markets have been shrugging off what’s been making the headlines scream for weeks.

    Soybean futures and Boeing both recovered within a few days of having been “targeted” by the Chinese for retaliatory tariffs. Libertarians should know better than to think Donald Trump’s tweets are a more authoritative source than market intelligence.

    What this really suggests is that the Kim summit is probably back on track. For the millionth time, North Korea’s nuclear program is what shook loose when Trump put pressure on the Chinese over trade, and for the sake of the country, let’s all hope that Trump is wildly successful at the summit.

    1. Trump says he has large hands or has the largest Inaugural crowd ever.

      Press: Trump’s exaggerating!!

      Trump threatens trade war, border wall, etc.

      Press: Trump means every word literally.

      1. Press never says exaggerating. They go straight to lying.

        1. Of course he is lying. Lying is the most essential skill in politics. Other than cheating and stealing it is the only real job qualification.

          We want our politicians to be good at it. Trump is good at it because like any successful politician he also has no sense of shame or remorse. Two of my favorite liars who turned out pretty good presidents were Reagan and Bill Clinton. Bill’s wife was a terrible liar which is why nobody liked her.

          But we libertarians know this which is why we are libertarians. We would like to keep the impact of lying, cheating, stealing government as low as possible so we can get on with life and have a beer or six on Sunday afternoon.

  14. “We are experiencing a high volume of conflicts. All of our negotiators are busy helping other countries. Your war is important to us. Please hold and a representative will be with you shortly. Your war is important to us…”

  15. China has a billion people, it can’t feed itself without trade with United States, which supplies something like 45% of the soybeans. And lots of red (Trump supporting) states make money on trade.

    China also make a lot of money by investing / partnering with American companies. They’re involved in everything from meat to movies. You’ll actually almost never buy video games, cars or beer made by Chinese companies. But they have a ton of stakes on American products. A retaliatory tariff on American products is probably a self inflicted wound on China’s part.

    Somewhere along the way, the two world leaders got the message that a trade war with each other would be counterproductive. China and US have the kind of gigantic and expanding market that can meet each other’s needs.

    1. XM|5.20.18 @ 9:33PM|#
      “China has a billion people, it can’t feed itself without trade with United States, which supplies something like 45% of the soybeans. And lots of red (Trump supporting) states make money on trade.”
      Wrong on the first claim. The world is swimming in food; China can get what it needs from several sources depending on which one is subsidizing ag more than the other. But, yes on the second.

      “China also make a lot of money by investing / partnering with American companies. They’re involved in everything from meat to movies. You’ll actually almost never buy video games, cars or beer made by Chinese companies. But they have a ton of stakes on American products. A retaliatory tariff on American products is probably a self inflicted wound on China’s part.”
      As tariffs always are on the population ‘defended’ by tariffs.

      “Somewhere along the way, the two world leaders got the message that a trade war with each other would be counterproductive. China and US have the kind of gigantic and expanding market that can meet each other’s needs.”
      I really don’t know the intent of the stated desire for tariffs on Trump’s part, nor the causes of both throwing in the flag. Regardless, those of us in the US and China are better off.

      1. China depends heavily on imports to feed their people. We’re not he only supplier, but we’re a big one. They import a ton of aluminum, steel, and beef from us. If I recall correctly, China doesn’t have many arable land and or manpower to be completely self sufficient. They get 30% of the rice from us.

        China is a manufacturing hub for foreign companies and their government will build giant cities and prop up real estate hoping to attract outside investments.When nothing comes, these become ghost towns. China doesn’t make money by selling their own products in American market – instead they assemble our products or their companies will invest in our movies, video games, clothing, etc. They have stakes in Apple and Amazon.

        So while tariffs are generally self defeating, for China is doubly counterproductive because they would be essentially taxing their own profits. If they only allowed 3 American movies to enter their markets they lose oodles of yuans. Hollywood would lose 30% of their gross, if not more. So they both have to play nice.

    2. “China also make a lot of money by investing / partnering with American companies.”

      I think you meant stealing intellectual property.

      1. No, actually investing. Whatever loss Americans suffer from IP theft is dwarfed by the benefits of Chinese investment. You’re grasping at straws.

        1. Not all IP is made equal. I would prefer the Communists do not gain control of military technologies they can use to kill Americans. If nothing else the Chinese are masters of wholesale corporate espionage and IP theft. And we continue to beg the, to trade with us.

          1. “Control”
            That word cannot, literally cannot, be coherent in the above rant.
            ‘Stealing’ ideas from some [fantasized] us, takes away nothing, and thus cannot lead to ‘control’.

            1. Sure, I bet the Chinese learned how to make J-10s and J-11s without stealing from the Russians and magically created the J-20 without hacking into cleared defense contractors. Funny it looks like our F-22, no? Let’s not forget their fantastic CH-5 drones that look exactly like our Predators and Reapers. What a coincidence?

              Or let’s go into the economic sphere. The great Special Economic Zones of China where the Chinese graciously invite foreign investment at the low, low price of wholesale technology transfers. And the investment th Chinese made in Hambantota (it’s in Sri Lanka btw) to secure port rights for 99 years in exchange for debt relief was because they are really swell. It probably was not because they want port rights so they can project power into the Indian Ocean with their military.

              I literally could go on for days. But I do not judge anyone’s lack of concern over China, it is their intention to boil us all so slowly that by the time they want to dictate terms to us, like we did with the Brits and French in the Suez Canal Crisis, the game is over and we have no cards to play.

              Like I suggested, learn Mandarin.

  16. What a shitshow. Hahahaaaaaahaha.

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  18. China recuits Silicon Valley start-ups. I looks like China might fulfill that agreement by purchasing $200 million worth of start-up tech companies each year instead of plagiarising technology. This could be a mutally beneficial arrangement.

    1. You mean they are buying the literal technology of the future!? Perhaps they can use these tech to create an even tighter police state in mainland China for eventual export to the West.

      What saints.

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  21. I’m going to LOL sooooooo hard if Trump gets China to drop some of their trade restrictions, which was his stated intent THE WHOLE TIME. He used the threat of tariffs as a bargaining chip. If you don’t think that getting China to ease restrictions on US exports to the tune of potentially hundreds of billions a year was worth the mere threat of tariffs… You’re an idiot.

    It amazes me how many people don’t seem to grasp that you can’t negotiate with somebody if you don’t offer either a carrot or a stick. If neither of those are present, what reason do they have to change their position? Trump offered them both, and hoped they’d go for the carrot. It sounds like they might.

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