Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

President Donald Trump instructed aides on Thursday to proceed with tariffs on about $200bn more in Chinese products despite his treasury secretary’s attempt to restart talks with Beijing to resolve the trade war, according to four people familiar with the matter.

But announcement of the new round of tariffs has been delayed as the administration considers revisions based on concerns raised in public comments, the people said.

Trump met with his top trade advisers on Thursday to discuss the China tariffs, including treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, the people said. Mnuchin has led a recent overture to the Chinese to restart trade talks.

The public comment period for a list of tariffs on about $200bn in Chinese goods closed last week, and Trump said the duties would be imposed "soon". The new round would be in addition to $50bn in Chinese goods that already face a 25% duty. US stocks erased gains on the news.

The Chinese have retaliated with tariffs on an equivalent amount of US exports, and have promised to match future rounds of US duties.

Before his meeting on Thursday, Trump boasted on Twitter that he has the upper hand in the trade feud with Beijing and feels "no pressure" to resolve the dispute.

His comment tempered cautious optimism among investors over the US government’s proposal for another round of talks with Beijing. Disclosure on Wednesday that the US sought to renew the talks rallied US stocks and emerging-market assets.

Trump threatened a third tranche of tariffs on another $267bn of Chinese imports last week, which would mean levying duties on nearly everything China exports to the US. Trump said at the time those tariffs were "ready to go on short notice", but the administration hasn’t yet published a list for public comment.

Efforts to end the dispute have fizzled so far. Officials from both countries have met four times for formal talks, most recently in August, when treasury’s under-secretary for international affairs David Malpass led discussions in Washington with Chinese vice-minister Wang Shouwen.

The White House has sought to pressure Beijing to reduce its trade surplus with the US and protect intellectual property rights of US companies, which it says are abused in China.

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