WASHINGTON – The United States and China ended a session of trade talks Friday without an announcement of an agreement, hours after new tariff hikes took effect and President Donald Trump threatened to slap duties on virtually all Chinese imports.
The latest talks were "constructive," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters, but he did not provide details.
"Talks with China continue in a very congenial manner – there is absolutely no need to rush," Trump said in an early morning series of tweets sent just hours after new tariffs took effect.
Global markets have dropped throughout the week, as investors feared new U.S. tariffs and Chinese retaliatory barriers will raise prices for consumers and slow the global economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1% on Friday at midday but trimmed its losses a bit after Mnuchin's statement.
Liu He, China’s vice premier and top trade negotiator, told reporters at his hotel that the talks went “fairly well.”
After a day of sending mixed signals on the progress with China, Trump caused new jitters for traders when he deleted his Twitter thread in which he said Chinese trade talks were progressing in "a very congenial manner" and that there is "no need to rush" a new agreement. Trump re-posted the message later.
While Trump claimed that "tariffs will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind," market analysts noted that China will retaliate by increasing tariffs on U.S. goods.
The results, they said, will be higher prices for consumers, perhaps less trade between the world's two largest economies, and more complicated negotiations on a new trade agreement.
New U.S. tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, after the two sides were unable to nail down the details of a new trade agreement during talks on Thursday.
Rates jumped to 25% from 10% on a massive range of Chinese goods, including office furniture, handbags and frozen catfish fillets.
Trump met Thursday night with Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and they agreed to "continue discussions" on Friday with the Chinese, the White House said.
Trump expressed both optimism and pessimism about a new trade deal in the run-up to the Friday deadline, which roiled markets as investors tried to parse the president’s words and assess whether he was serious about raising the tariffs.
Trump announced the new tariffs on Sunday on Twitter because he was angry about the pace of the talks and at what he said was China’s attempts at backtracking on several commitments it had made during months of negotiations.