US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he did not agree to rollback tariffs on Chinese imports, dampening recent optimism for a major de-escalation in the US-China trade war.

Trump’s remarks appeared to push back against Beijing’s claims this week that the two sides had agreed to remove tariffs in stages as part of a partial deal announced last month.

Hopes for progress in defusing trade tensions have driven global stocks higher this month.

“They would like to have a rollback. I haven’t agreed to anything,” Trump told media at the White House.

“China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback, because they know I won’t do it”, Trump added.

Trump repeated his claims that China wants a deal more than the United States and that he is happy taking in tariff revenue.

President Trump said that the tariffs are paid by China, but studies conducted since the tariffs were imposed find that Americans businesses and consumers are paying them.

“Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do,” Trump said. “I’m very happy right now. We’re taking in billions of dollars”, he further added.

However, Beijing, said that such this week the two sides had already agreed to mutual tariff reductions.

Earlier on Thursday, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng announced that the US and Chinese officials had “agreed to roll back the additional tariffs in stages, as progress is made towards a (final) agreement.”

The United States and China have imposed steep tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in two-way trade, and another round of US duties are set to hit on December 15 on $160 billion in Chinese goods.

Trump again said Beijing is eager for a deal because their economy is hurting, although economic data show the conflict has hit US businesses as well, and the uncertainty over the dispute between the economic powers is undermining global growth.

Investors worldwide have been cheered in recent days by reports quoting sources in Washington and Beijing saying duties already imposed could be removed in a proportional way.

 

Earlier in September, the US had imposed fresh tariffs on $112 billion worth of Chinese imported goods, marking a sharp escalation of the bruising trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The dispute between the world’s two biggest economies in July 2018 boiled over into tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of each other’s goods and threatens to engulf all trade between the countries, putting global growth at risk.

USTR accuses China of “unfair acts, policies and practices,” including its retaliatory tariffs and “concrete steps to devalue its currency,” allegations denied by Beijing.

Donald Trump launched the trade war as part of his “America First” bid to lower a wide trade deficit with China, but the tariffs imposed thus far have barely made a dent in that gap.

(With inputs from AFP)