US will delay tariff hike on Chinese-made cell phones, toys

The top US trade negotiator on Tuesday said that new tariffs on Chinese-made consumer goods including cell phones, toys and video game consoles would be delayed until December 15.

The move comes after a phone call between US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and top Chinese negotiator Liu He in which the parties agreed to pick up negotiations by phone within two weeks, according to a statement from the Chinese Commerce Ministry.

It’s the latest turnaround on tariffs for President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly dangled threats to ratchet up import duties on goods from China and other countries, including Mexico, as leverage in negotiations.

Trump, who is campaigning for reelection in part on his China trade war, didn’t immediately acknowledge the delay on Tuesday but shortly after the announcement tweeted a complaint about China not buying US agricultural products.

“As usual, China said they were going to be buying ‘big’ from our great American Farmers. So far they have not done what they said. Maybe this will be different!” the President wrote.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that China would resume purchases of US goods, particularly soybeans, as a condition of limiting or removing US tariffs.

The US announcement immediately sent stocks surging, a sign of how heavily the ongoing trade war is weighing on markets. Rising concerns about a global slowdown contributed to the decision last month by the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates.

Trump is campaigning for reelection on the strength of the US economy, even as he continues to create uncertainty.

Last year, Trump imposed tariffs on about $250 billion in Chinese-made goods, targeting industrial materials and components.

He said earlier this month that he would add a 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion of Chinese-made products on September 1, which would effectively put a tax on all Chinese goods coming into the United States.

“Trade talks are continuing, and during the talks the U.S. will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 billion dollars of products coming from China into our country,” he tweetedat the time.

The December delay could mean a tariff hike right before Christmas, but long after holiday items have been imported into the US.

The Office of the US Trade Representative said in its statement Tuesday that it would also exclude certain products based on health, safety and national security reasons from either list.

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