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Trump says tariffs on Chinese goods may stay for ‘substantial period’

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US President wants to ensure that China complies with any trade agreement

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that the US may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a "substantial period" to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

The stance could complicate US-China trade talks set to resume next week, as Chinese officials have been pressing for a full lifting of US tariffs as part of any deal, people familiar with the talks have said.

Mr Trump said his top negotiators, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, would leave for Beijing this weekend, confirming plans for talks next week disclosed on Tuesday by an administration official.

The face-to-face talks will be the first since Mr Trump delayed a March 1 deadline to avert a rise in tariffs on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) worth of Chinese imports to 25 per cent from the current 10 percent.

"The deal is coming along nicely," Mr Trump said to reporters at the White House, adding that the China trip was intended "to further the deal".

But when asked about lifting US tariffs on Chinese goods, Mr Trump said: "We're not talking about removing them. We're talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal, China lives by it."

Mr Trump did not elaborate on his plans for the tariffs. His negotiators have demanded that China agree to an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on any reform pledges in any deal.

Washington is demanding that China end practices it says force the transfer of American technology to Chinese companies, improve access for American companies to China's markets and curb industrial subsidies.

Since July 2018, the US has imposed duties on US$250 billion worth of Chinese imports, including US$50 billion in technology and industrial goods at 25 per cent and US$200 billion in other products including furniture and construction materials, at 10 per cent. China has hit back with tariffs on about US$110 billion worth of US goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

Later on Wednesday, during a speech in Lima, Ohio, Mr Trump emphasised again that he wanted the US to reach a "great" trade deal with China.

"We're so far down, it's got to be a great deal. If it's not a great deal, you never catch up," Mr Trump said in remarks at a military tank manufacturing plant. - REUTERS