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WASHINGTON (AP) – Stocks wobbled between small gains and losses Friday amid conflicting signals about how much progress is being made toward resolving the U.S.-China trade war.
President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed a Chinese official’s assertion that his administration has agreed to roll back some of the higher tariffs it has imposed on Chinese goods.
The Chinese official had said Thursday that the two sides had agreed to a phased cancellation of their tariff hikes as part of an emerging agreement.
Mr. Trump’s pushback suggested that negotiations have not progressed as far as hoped as the world’s two biggest economies struggle to negotiate an end to their trade war, which has hurt both economies.
“They’d like to have a rollback,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to the Chinese. “I haven’t agreed to anything.”
The two sides have been working on an initial “Phase 1” deal that was announced October 12 but that still is not final.
Financial markets in the U.S. and globally rallied Thursday at the prospect of an agreement to wind down the U.S.-China trade fight, but then fell Friday on Mr. Trump’s comments. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 48 points, or 0.2 percent, in midday trading.
A private sector source with knowledge of the talks said Thursday that the United States has agreed to suspend the duties Trump threatened to impose December 15th on about $160 billion of Chinese imports as part of the agreement. But there is dissension in the White House about whether and by how much to roll back 15 percent duties on another $112 billion of goods imposed September 1.
The trade war stems from the Trump administration’s complaints that China is seeking to unfairly boost its high tech industries by stealing U.S. technology or forcing American companies to share it as a condition of doing business there. Most business groups and China trade experts agree that China has violated trade rules and have largely supported the administration’s tougher line.
Still, the tariffs have hurt both countries’ economies. China’s growth slowed to an annual rate of 6 percent last month, a healthy pace for more advanced economies but China’s slowest in three decades.
A report released Wednesday by a trade group opposed to the duties found that Americans paid $7.1 billion in tariffs in September, a record high for a single month.
Once a “phase 1” deal is reached, the two sides will still need to decide where the two leaders—Mr. Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping—will sign the pact. Mr. Trump said Friday that they could hold a summit in Iowa or elsewhere in U.S. “farm country.”