President Donald Trump said Friday that he hasn't yet agreed to a rollback of tariffs with the Chinese government, casting more uncertainty on the projected timeline of the already tumultuous trade deal between the two countries.
While taking reporters' questions outside the White House, Trump was asked if a tariff rollback would be part of a prospective "phase one" trade deal. The president responded that while "they'd like to have a rollback, I haven't agreed to anything."
Trump went on to explain that "China would like to get some kind of a rollback, not a complete rollback, because they know I won't do it." He added, however, that "we're getting along very well with China" and that Beijing officials "want to make a deal a lot more than I do" and that he's "very happy right now" with the fact that the government is taking in "billions of dollars" in tariff revenue.
Later, when asked by another reporter whether or not the two countries would reach a deal by the end of 2019, the president responded that "we'll see what happens" and reiterated that the two counties were "getting along very well."
The president's remarks come just a day after reports that the two countries had agreed to roll back at least some tariffs on each other, depending on the content of a prospective starter deal.
"In the past two weeks, lead negotiators have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving issues of core concern. Both sides agreed to remove the additional tariffs imposed in phases as progress is made on the agreement," Chinese Ministry of Finance spokesperson Gao Feng said Thursday. "If China and the U.S. reach a phase one deal, both sides should roll back existing additional tariffs in the same proportion simultaneously."
"I cannot get ahead of the talks with China," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday, "but we are very, very optimistic that we will reach a deal soon."
The trade standoff between the two economic powers has gone on for months now with tariffs being a key pressure tactic being used by both sides.
Earlier this week, Commerce Department numbers reported by the Wall Street Journal showed that the federal government pulled in a record $7 billion in tariffs during the month of September alone, showing an almost 60 percent increase over the previous year.