Trump claims China has agreed to “remove” tariffs on U.S. cars — but Beijing is saying nothing

"Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!"

by David Gilbert
Dec 3 2018, 1:27pm

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Donald Trump tweeted late Sunday that China has agreed to “reduce and remove” tariffs on U.S. cars exported to China — but Beijing refused to confirm the president’s claims.

The tweet gave no details of the supposed car deal, apparently struck at the G20 Summit in Argentina over the weekend, during which Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day pause in the trade war to allow for further talks.

“China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the U.S. Currently the tariff is 40%,” Trump tweeted.

He followed up with another Tweet Monday morning hailing an “extraordinary” meeting that will help relations with China take “a BIG leap forward!”

Trump went on to claim it was his close personal relationship with Xi that will "bring about massive and very positive change" on trade.

He even suggested that he and Xi could work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt "what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race."

Tariffs on car exports have jumped from 15 percent earlier this year to the current 40 percent as a result of Trump’s trade war. As such, Chinese imports of U.S.-made cars and trucks — worth $10 billion in 2017 — have fallen off significantly.

READ: China tries playing the trade war victim: Trump is bullying us

When asked about Trump’s comment Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment.

Despite the opacity of the reported deal, the car industry welcomed the news, with shares in GM, Daimler, BMW and Tesla rallying.

GM's Frankfurt-listed shares jumped 7.3 percent. The company last week announced plans to layoff off 15,000 North American workers and the mothballing of four U.S. plants. The company claimed that the increased price of Chinese steel as a result of the trade war had led to job losses and closures.

Trump’s tweet came after a Saturday dinner with Xi in Buenos Aires where the pair agreed not to impose a fresh round of tariffs from Jan. 1.

A White House statement called the meeting “highly successful” and said China had agreed to buy a “very substantial” amount of agricultural, industrial and energy products. The statement added that Beijing would buy agricultural products from U.S. farmers immediately — though offered no actual figures.

Trump said Monday that farmers "will be a very BIG and FAST beneficiary" of the new deal.

While the agreement does give officials from both sides the chance to reach a comprehensive deal over trade, the U.S. warned that “if at the end of this period of time, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the 10 percent tariffs will be raised to 25 percent.”

However, the Chinese account of the meeting differed.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Commerce Vice Minister Wang Shouwen told reporters that the talks would focus on removing all U.S. tariffs and Chinese retaliatory tariffs but failed to mention a deadline.

Many analysts have pointed out that China is simply playing the U.S., and that for all the smiles and handshakes, there will be few tangible results.

“President Xi has successfully slow-walked President Trump,” Peter Morici, a University of Maryland economist, told the Wall Street Journal. “The president has fallen into the same trap as Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and even Bill Clinton. He will get more platitudes and promises and very few results.”

Cover image: President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping make a joint statement at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. (Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)