World

Trump says not agreed to tariffs roll back

By AAP Newswire

US President Donald Trump says he has not agreed to rollbacks of US tariffs sought by China, sparking fresh doubts about when the world's two largest economies may end a 16-month trade war that has slowed global growth.

Officials from both countries on Thursday said China and the United States had agreed to roll back tariffs on each others' goods in a "phase one" trade deal.

But the idea of tariff rollbacks met with stiff opposition within the Trump administration, Reuters reported later on Thursday.

Those divisions were on full display on Friday, when Trump - who has repeatedly described himself as "Tariff Man" - told reporters at the White House that he had not agreed to reduce tariffs already put in place.

"China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback, 'cause they know I won't do it," Trump said. "I haven't agreed to anything."

He said China wanted to make a deal more than he did, adding that the US tariffs were generating "billions" for US coffers.

"I'm very happy right now. We're taking in billions of dollars," he said.

US stocks dipped after Trump's comments, and the US dollar fell against the yen, stalling a rally fuelled by trade deal optimism that took major indexes to record levels.

Trump also said the trade deal with China, if completed, would be signed in the United States.

Hu Xijin, editor of China's state-run Global Times newspaper, reacted to Trump on Twitter, writing that markets were not expecting Trump's statements.

"It's not a flat denial," Hu tweeted. "What's certain is that if there's no rollback of tariffs, there will be no phase 1 deal."

Experts inside and outside the US government warn that the "phase one" trade pact could still fall apart.

US officials said a lot of work remained to be done when Trump announced the outlines of an interim deal last month, and Beijing has since pushed back on US demands for big agricultural purchases, among other issues.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, one of the Trump administration's loudest anti-China voices, lashed out at journalists on Friday in an e-mail, accusing them of being "played" by Chinese "propagandists" who were falsely stating that the two sides had agreed to cancel tariffs in phases.

Navarro complained that too many reports relied on anonymous sources and said only Trump and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer should be quoted on stories about the China trade negotiations.

The USTR has not responded to queries about tariff rollbacks.

Trump has used tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods as his primary weapon in the protracted trade war, which is aimed at forcing major changes in China's trade and industrial policies.

The US is demanding that China end the theft and forced transfer of American intellectual property and curb subsidies to state-owned enterprises, while granting US companies more access to China's markets.

Trump also wants China to vastly increase its purchases of US farm products.