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U.S. and China break off talks without deal to end widening trade war

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Standing from left, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday in Washington.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

With fresh tariffs in place and President Trump insisting he’s in no hurry for a trade deal, top U.S. and Chinese officials ended talks Friday in Washington without reaching an agreement or providing word on when they will continue negotiations.

“Over the course of the past two days, the United States and China have held candid and constructive conversations on the status of the trade relationship between both countries,” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon after the meetings concluded. “The relationship between President Xi and myself remains a very strong one, and conversations into the future will continue.”

Trump added that the tariff hikes he imposed Friday would stay in place “depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations.”

The two sides had reconvened Friday morning after a last-ditch effort the previous night failed to salvage a deal before Trump’s midnight deadline for ratcheting up punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.

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Moments after the higher duties took effect, Beijing vowed to retaliate with countermeasures, although it did not provide specifics.

The new U.S. tariff action raised from 10% to 25% an import tax on $200 billion of Chinese goods, including components used in manufacturing but also many consumer products such as clothes, suitcases and seafood. Trump has threatened to impose 25% tariffs on all the rest of Chinese products coming into the United States, or roughly an additional $300 billion.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Friday that the process before those new tariffs can be imposed would begin soon. The process includes filing a public notice and having a period for public comments.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, who also has been involved in the talks, told reporters that the discussions were “constructive.” He declined to say more.

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A spokesperson for Lighthizer said Trump’s tweets would stand as the official U.S. statement on the status of the trade negotiations.

Chinese journalists who were briefed by China’s delegation, led by Vice Premier Liu He, gave a similar characterization of the talks, and also noted that the two sides would continue negotiations in the future in Beijing.

Earlier Friday, Trump posted on Twitter that “talks with China continue in a very congenial manner” but that “there is absolutely no need to rush.” He said that the U.S. government was benefiting from the tariffs paid by China, though economists widely agree that it is American importers, businesses and consumers that bear the cost.

Trump also suggested that his administration could provide additional relief aid to U.S. farmers, who have been among the hardest hit from the trade war as China has retaliated with tit-for-tat tariffs that have targeted agricultural goods from the United States.

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