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Trade war

Trump to keep China tariffs for 'substantial' period after deal

White House seeks leverage to keep Beijing in line

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters March 20 at the White House.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- U.S. punitive tariffs against China will be kept in place for a "substantial" amount of time after a trade agreement is struck to ensure Beijing holds up its end of the bargain, President Donald Trump said Wednesday.

"We're not talking about removing them," Trump said at the White House. "We're talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China, that China lives by the deal."

"They've had a lot of problems living by certain deals and we have to make sure," he said.

Trump did not elaborate, instead repeating the claim that the duties are filling U.S. coffers with tax revenue. "We’re taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money, and for a period of time that will stay," he said.

Tariffs are expected to be the focal point of cabinet-level trade talks set to begin next week in Beijing. The deepening rift between the two sides may throw a wrench into the discussions.

The Trump administration slapped extra tariffs on about $250 billion worth of Chinese imports last year, prompting China to retaliate with its own duties. Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative and point person on the China trade talks, has suggested scaling back the tariffs gradually while making sure Beijing keeps to its word. The Chinese insist that both sides should remove their duties immediately after an agreement is reached.

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