China, U.S. agree in principle to begin canceling tariffs in phases as trade deal nears

The U.S. and China will begin canceling tit-for-tat tariffs imposed against each other as part of the ongoing trade war as both sides get closer to a final agreement that will see a normalization of commerce.

According to a statement from the Chinese commerce ministry, an interim trade deal is anticipated and will include a U.S. promise to scrap tariffs that were scheduled to be imposed Dec. 15 on about $156 billion worth of Chinese imports including laptops, cell phones, and toys.

Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that the cancellation of tariffs was an important precursor to any eventual agreement. He added that both countries must cancel some tariffs simultaneously to reach “phase one” of the deal, Reuters reported.

“The trade war started with tariffs, and should end with the cancellation of tariffs,” Gao told a regular news briefing.

The proportion of tariffs canceled for both sides to reach the first phase of a deal must be the same, he noted, but the number to be canceled can be negotiated. He did not elaborate.

“In the past two weeks, the lead negotiators from both sides have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving various core concerns appropriately,” Gao said.

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“Both sides have agreed to cancel additional tariffs in different phases, as both sides make progress in their negotiations.”

No timetable was given, but Chinese state media reported Thursday Chinese customs was considering lifting tariffs on U.S. poultry imports. China has banned all U.S. poultry and eggs since January 2015 due to an avian influenza outbreak.

A source previously told Reuters that China wanted the U.S. to drop tariffs on other Chinese imports as well.

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Earlier reports noted that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could sign a final trade deal later this month.

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