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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that President Donald Trump could strike a pact with China at any time, but is focused on striking the best deal possible for American workers.
“The president is correct: He could do a deal any time. But he only wants to do a good deal,” Mnuchin told CNBC from the White House.
“And let me just remind you, these discussions have been going on for two and a half years,” he added. “And President Trump is only going to agree to a deal if it’s a good deal, a deal that’s good for U.S. companies and U.S. workers.”
Though deliberations between the world’s two largest economies have been volatile in recent months, Trump on Wednesday announced that he would delay a forthcoming tariff hike on China in a “gesture of good will.”
“The president delayed it because of a request from the vice premier,” Mnuchin noted. “The optics of us raising the tariffs on October 1st, which is their 70th anniversary, caused them grave concern on the symbolism.”
The marginally upbeat dialogue between the U.S. and China in recent weeks comes after a summer of volatility between the world’s two largest economies.
Trump abruptly ended a cease-fire with China on Aug. 1 by announcing 10% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, some of which took effect Sept. 1. The president delayed the introduction of some of the duties to mitigate the shopping season.
China responded in kind later in August, introducing , effective Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, the two dates when Trump’s tariffs take effect on Beijing’s goods. It also confirmed it is in light of the Trump administration’s new tariffs.
Asked on Thursday whether Trump might settled for a watered-down, temporary agreement in an effort to secure the U.S. economy ahead of the 2020 election, Mnuchin said that the president still has all options available to him. Including raising taxes on imports from China.
“The president is a negotiator. And he is prepared to keep these tariffs in place, he’s prepared to raise tariffs if we need to raise tariffs,” Mnuchin said. “Now as it relates to agriculture, we expect and we want them to buy agriculture. We view that as a personal attack on our farmers. They need our agriculture.”
“This isn’t about just selling them soybeans, but we do want to sell them soybeans,” he said.