Trump says he'd consider an interim trade agreement with China but prefers 'whole deal'

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WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, RETUERS) – US President Donald Trump said he would be open to an interim trade deal with China but would prefer a lasting deal.

“I’d rather get the whole deal done,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“I see a lot of analysts are saying an interim deal, meaning we’ll do pieces of it, the easy ones first. But there’s no easy or hard. There’s a deal or there’s not a deal. But it’s something we would consider, I guess.”

Trump administration officials have discussed offering a limited trade agreement to China that would delay and even roll back some US tariffs for the first time in exchange for Chinese commitments on intellectual property and agricultural purchases, according to five people familiar with the matter.

The discussions are preliminary and Trump has yet to sign off on it.

The proposal would freeze the conflict rather than bring a final resolution to a trade war that has cast a shadow over the global economy. U.S. equities and Asian stock futures advanced after news of the discussions.

The plan reflects concerns within the White House over the recent escalation in tariffs and their economic impact on the US going into an election year.

Polls show the trade war is not popular with many voters and farmers are increasingly angry over depressed commodity prices.  

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Late Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he was putting off the 5 per cent increase in tariffs on Chinese goods, originally set to take effect the first day of next month until Oct 15 – out of respect for the celebration of the 70th anniversary on Oct 1 of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

China also announced that it would exempt some US drugs and other goods from tariffs.

While welcoming China’s overtures, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought to temper optimism in markets that the gestures might lead to a trade deal.

He told CNBC that Trump was prepared to keep or even raise tariffs on Chinese imports and that Beijing had asked for more concessions beyond the removal of tariffs.  

“The next month is important,” Mnuchin said at a later event hosted by the New York Times. “We’re hopeful we’ll make progress. If we can get the right deal, we’ll do a deal.”

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