Tariff Hikes Delayed; Deal to End Trade War May Be on Horizon

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Washington, D.C.—President Trump is delaying the tariff hike on Chinese goods and hopes to sign a deal soon to end the trade war altogether, according to Reuters.

No new deadline for tariff hikes has been set, and no details regarding the deal have yet been released.

Reuters reports that this has been greeted with mixed feelings. Stock markets and some U.S. trade associations cheered the move, and Asian shares jumped to a five-month high.

However, Reuters cited a tweet from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa in which he said that he hoped that trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and President Trump wouldn’t take a deal just for the sake of a deal. While the Trump administration has been pushing hard for specific commitments to protect intellectual property rights and end cyber-theft of trade secrets and practices, Reuters quotes Eswar Prasad, trade professor at Cornell University, as saying that “Trump has clearly put his negotiators on notice that he wants a deal. This raises the chances of a deal but makes it harder for the U.S. to pressure China into making significant concessions related to its industrial and economic strategies.” Prasad is the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China department.

Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon told Reuters that “A simple commodities sales agreement does nothing to fix the problems of forced technology transfers and IP theft practices.”

Industry leaders, too, are reacting with conflicting feelings. Steve Mister, president and CEO at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said that right now, all the industry can do is be optimistic. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, so the Industry should be pleased with what’s happening now. Every week without tariff hikes is a good one.” He noted that, as little as we know about the details of the deal the U.S. and China are trying to make, we know even less about the tariff hike delay: “Much of the conversation is around intellectual property and technology theft, not the tariffs.”

With regard to Industry activity in response to the delay, Mister said he didn’t think there would be much. “We might see some manufacturers stockpiling ingredients while they still can, but we saw that in January and February, when we thought the tariff increases were coming in March. And I wouldn’t recommend that, anyway—this might all go away with a deal.”

Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, said, “We welcome this news and hope that a lasting trade agreement can be reached with China in a timely manner, given the dietary supplement industry’s strong ties to China on both the large amount of ingredients coming into the United States, as well as the increasing movement of branded U.S. products into the Chinese marketplace. A resolution to resolve a clarified trade agreement is clearly in the interests of both countries.”

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