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US treasury chief Mnuchin in China tariff warning

Chinese shipping containers are stored beside a US flag after they were unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, California on May 14, 2019.Image copyright
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New tariffs on $156bn of Chinese goods will be imposed if a trade deal is not finalised by 15 December, the US Treasury Secretary has warned.

Steven Mnuchin said he still hoped a tentative US-China deal agreed last week to suspend fresh tariffs would be formally approved.

But his caution, during a CNBC interview, seemed in contrast with the president’s optimism last week.

Wall Street shares dipped at the open on worries about reaching a final deal.

Last Friday, the US agreed to hold off on a planned 25%-30% tariff increase on Chinese imports that was due to come into effect on Tuesday. It followed two days of talks in Washington between Liu He, China’s vice-premier, and US officials.

President Donald Trump, who described the talks as a “love fest”, said the preliminary deal would take about five weeks to complete.

However, Chinese officials have been more cautious about the outcome, simply claiming there had been progress between the countries.

Mr Mnuchin told CNBC: “I have every expectation if there’s not a deal, those tariffs would go in place – but I expect we’ll have a deal.”

There are still major issues to be negotiated, including industrial subsidies and cybertheft.

Mr Mnuchin said more trade negotiations at various levels would take place over the coming weeks, including a phone call between himself, US Trade Representative Lighthizer, and Mr Liu.

Asked on CNBC about a dispute between China and the US National Basketball Association, stemming from a tweet by Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey expressing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Mr Mnuchin said he hoped the two sides could come to a solution.