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Trump issues two-week delay for latest tariffs

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US President welcomes China's 'big move' to exempt some US goods

WASHINGTON/BEIJING: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a two-week delay in imposing the latest round of tariffs and welcomed China's decision to exempt some US anti-cancer drugs and other goods from its tariffs.

Washington's delay and Beijing's exemptions came days ahead of a planned meeting aimed at defusing a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

China's decision to exempt some US goods was a "big move" by Beijing and a positive gesture before trade negotiators from both countries meet in Washington, Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

China announced on Wednesday its first batch of tariff exemptions for 16 types of US products, including some anti-cancer drugs and lubricants, as well as animal feed ingredients whey and fish meal, according to a Ministry of Finance statement on its website.

Beijing said in May that it would start a waiver programme, amid growing worries over the cost of the protracted trade war on its already slowing economy.

"They made a couple of moves... that were pretty good," Mr Trump said at an unrelated event on vaping.

"I think it was a gesture, okay? But it was a big move."

On Wednesday, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that the US had agreed to delay increasing tariffs on US$250 billion (S$344 billion) worth of Chinese imports from Oct 1 to Oct 15 "as a gesture of good will".

The tariffs were set to increase to 30 per cent from 25 per cent on the goods.

Mr Trump said he hoped to reach a trade agreement with China following more than a year of tit-for-tat exchanges of tariffs that have roiled global markets.

"I deal with them and I know them and I like them," he said.

"I hope we can do something."

Deputy trade negotiators are due to meet in Washington in mid-September, with minister-level talks to follow in October. Exact dates for the meetings have not been released.

The gestures may ease tensions ahead of the negotiations, but some analysts do not see it as a signal that both sides are readying a deal.

"The exemption could be seen as a gesture of sincerity towards the US ahead of negotiations in October but is probably more a means of supporting the economy," ING's Greater China economist Iris Pang wrote in a note.

"There are still many uncertainties in the coming trade talks. An exemption list of just 16 items will not change China's stance," she said.

The exemption will take effect on Sept 17 and be valid for a year through to Sept 16, 2020. - REUTERS