Director of the White House National Trade Council Peter Navarro. Photo: AFP

The Donald Trump administration continued to tamp down enthusiasm for progress in trade talks with China on Wednesday, when National Trade Council director Peter Navarro contradicted earlier statements from the White House suggesting that the trade conflict was “on hold.”

After an announcement on Tuesday that tariffs on US$50 billion in Chinese goods were coming soon, Navarro lamented that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s suggestion that the tariffs were on hold was erroneous.

“That was an unfortunate sound bite,” the trade adviser said, speaking on National Public Radio.

Navarro stressed that “it’s a trade dispute,” not a trade war, in response to Mnuchin’s suggestion that the “trade war was on hold.”

“We lost the trade war long ago.… What we’re having with China is a trade dispute – plain and simple.”

When asked whether it was the administration’s goal to keep China from becoming a leader in high-tech industries, Navarro said, “Exactly.”

He acknowledged the US had limited options for keeping China from developing its domestic industries, but said “what we can do is we can stop them from putting our high-tech industries out of business with the tariffs.”

Navarro also noted that support for a hard line with China on trade had bipartisan support.

“When you have [Democratic Senator] Chuck Schumer and [Republican Senator] Marco Rubio on the same sheet of music saying we’ve got to stop this, you know you’re doing something right.”

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.