Trump Delays Plans To Raise Tariffs On $200 Billion In Chinese Goods

Originally published on December 3, 2018 8:22 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What is the meaning of the halt to the escalation of a trade war with China? President Trump had dinner with China's President Xi Jingping in Argentina over the weekend, and they emerged announcing an agreement. President Trump's 10 percent tariffs on Chinese goods remain, but the president will hold off raising tariffs to 25 percent, as had been planned. The U.S. says that, in exchange, China is promising to buy more U.S. goods and to spend 90 days talking about resolving the largest U.S. objections to China's business practices.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was at that dinner in Argentina and joins us now. Mr. Navarro, welcome back the program.

PETER NAVARRO: Steve, great to be with you. And by the way, talk is cheap on this whole structural issue, which is really the most important thing, stopping China from stealing our intellectual property, from forcing its transfer, from doing all manner of aggression against America's technological crown jewels. That's front and center in this negotiation. And what we're looking for is not more talk, but by the end of 90 days that we see verifiable and real structural changes that yield actual, verifiable, immediate results.

INSKEEP: Well, let's figure out...

NAVARRO: That's the bottom line.

INSKEEP: Well, let's figure out where you are with that, Mr. Navarro. You've agreed to spend 90 days. The president will hold off on the 25 percent tariff so that you can spend 90 days discussing that. That's what the U.S. has said. The Chinese state media have described this a little differently in their statements about it. And they actually left out the part about negotiating these fundamental problems like technology transfer. Having been at that dinner, is it your understanding the Chinese are serious about fixing that to the satisfaction of the United States?

NAVARRO: So here's how the dinner went. The first 30 minutes - the first 30 minutes through that dinner were primarily the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. He was the only one who spoke at that dinner for the Chinese side, laying out chapter and verse all of the things that they promised to do, not just with respect to buying more stuff, which is small in the scheme of things but very important for our farmers, but dealing with the structural changes, dealing with the forced technology, dealing with the cybertheft, dealing with the lack of market access.

So it's not surprising that in the wake of this there might be a different message coming out of the Chinese media. That's what they do. But at the end of the day, the understanding coming out of that room was very clear - 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, we have actual structural changes that will yield actual, immediate, verifiable results.

INSKEEP: You said...

NAVARRO: And there's things like - look, Steve - like cyber intrusion.

INSKEEP: When you were listening to the president, you heard terms that you thought the United States could accept, or a general promise to work on it? Did you get terms you could accept?

NAVARRO: They presented us with documents that had 142 specific demands that we had made and their responses. And they were very specific in how they would respond to that. It's going to require changing their laws. It's going to require enforcing their laws. It's going to require the Chinese government from telling the thousands of people inside that government to stand down on intruding into our businesses and our homes with their cyber intrusions.

And, you know, look. The people of America should be four-square behind President Trump. He is doing something no president has done in modern history. He's standing up for the American people on trade. And with the case of China, he's also standing up for these unfair and nonreciprocal trade practices that China engages in primarily to extract our technology, but also to extract our factories and jobs.

INSKEEP: OK. We'll listen for more details on that. I do want to ask about this tweet the president has sent in the last number of hours, Peter Navarro. He said China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the United States. That wasn't part of either side's official communique. What is that?

NAVARRO: That certainly came up, as well, in discussions. China basically has a 40 percent tariff - 40 percent tariff on automobiles that go into China. We have a 2.5 percent tariff on the world. So that's just one of the many tariffs that have to be reduced. But the more important thing with China - and again, this is all part of the discussion, Steve. But Robert Lighthizer's the ambassador of USTR. He's in charge of these negotiations. He's the toughest negotiator we've ever had at the USTR, and he's going to go chapter and verse and get tariffs down, nontariff barriers down, and end all these structural practices that prevent market access. And we've given away nothing here. We've just given the Chinese 90 days to do what they should have been doing for the last 20 years, which was...

INSKEEP: What happens in 90 days if the Chinese do not give you satisfactory terms?

NAVARRO: Tariffs go up to 25 percent. But by the way, Steve, let's not forget. We have 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of goods that relate primarily to technology. Remember, this whole issue started with China stealing our technological crown jewels, a 301 investigation. The report by ambassador Lighthizer demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the Chinese launched an aggressive strategic attack on our technologies, and we have $50 billion with tariffs of 25 percent on that. We have given nothing away here. All we've done is to give the Chinese time to do the right thing, and they will be held accountable for that.

And, look. It's a great thing. Look. The president of this country and the president of China have a great relationship. If anybody can work it out, it's going to be those two gentlemen.

INSKEEP: Peter Navarro, got to stop you there. But it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

NAVARRO: My pleasure, Steve. Take care.

INSKEEP: Peter Navarro is a White House adviser. NPR's Scott Horsley, who covers the White House, has been listening in. Scott, what did you hear there?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, I think we heard confirmation of what we knew coming out of the meeting, which is that we have seen so far - no actual movement on the fundamental that we're driving this trade war between the U.S. and China. No commitment yet for China to stop the intellectual property theft or the forced transfer of technological know-how. What we have seen is the Trump administration backing away from an escalation in its tariffs on China, and that will be a relief to a lot of folks in the financial market, certainly a relief to farmers, who are now hoping that maybe China will start buying U.S. soybeans again, which they've basically stopped since these tariffs went into effect. But no actual movement on the fundamentals.

INSKEEP: I do think we heard a number that I hadn't heard before which suggests what China has offered and how much work there may be yet to do. Navarro said that China responded to 142 separate U.S. complaints. So you do have a sense of China answering the United States, but we don't know what the answers were, and it sounds like there's going to be a lot of negotiating that has to be done in 90 days.

HORSLEY: That's right. And when Peter Navarro says this president has done what no other president's done before, I think where we are right now is exactly where we've been. This president hasn't done it yet, either. So we'll have to wait 90 days to see if this president actually negotiates any movement from China on those fundamental issues.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

HORSLEY: Always good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.