WSJ: Lighthizer Says China ‘Reneging’ on Trade-Talk Commitments

U.S. trade representative says U.S. to raise tariffs to 25% on $200 billion in Chinese goods

By William Mauldin Updated May 6, 2019 5:25 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Top U.S. officials accused Chinese officials of backtracking in high-stakes trade talks Monday and said $200 billion in Chinese goods will face higher tariffs starting Friday.

“Over the course of the last week or so, we’ve seen an erosion in commitments by China, I would say retreating from commitments that have already been made, in our judgment,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters in Washington.

Mr. Lighthizer said the administration would formalize a long-delayed increase in tariffs on $200 billion of goods to 25% from 10%, effective Friday. The comments from Mr. Lighthizer, who was joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, echoed a tweet from President Trump on Sunday accusing China of trying to “renegotiate” and warning of raising the tariffs.

Mr. Lighthizer said he expected to continue with talks with Chinese counterparts in Washington on Thursday and Friday. That would mark a delay from previous expectations of a round set to start Wednesday—one that many observers hoped would yield a deal.

Mr. Mnuchin said while some concerns arose last week when he and Mr. Lighthizer were in Beijing for talks, they received some reassurances. Then, over the weekend, the talks went “substantially backward,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

Some observers thought Mr. Trump’s tweet Sunday was an effort to put more pressure on China to achieve a better deal. Yet the briefing from Messrs. Mnuchin and Lighthizer made it clear there are deep concerns about the direction of the talks.

The senior officials declined to specify areas where they think the Chinese side backtracked. “There was concern about the form of the agreement and a redrafting of it” that would pull back from important commitments, Mr. Lighthizer said.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the talks Monday.

(More to come)