United States President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Jim Watson

The Trump administration’s top negotiators in trade talks with China have been careful not to disclose details about the terms of an agreement that they say is in the final stages of being drafted. But the US president himself seems sure about one thing: removing tariffs immediately is not on the table.

“No we’re not talking about removing them, we’re talking about leaving them, and 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,” Donald Trump told reporters on the White House lawn on Wednesday.

After reiterating his contention that China has failed to live up to previous deals, while the United States “rebuilt China,” Trump went on to tout progress in talks.

“We’re getting along with China very well. President Xi [Jinping] is a friend of mine. The deal is coming along nicely. We have our top representatives going there this weekend to further the deal.”

One of those officials heading to Beijing, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, went to great pains to avoid telling lawmakers last week whether the US was demanding that tariffs stay in effect as part of a potential deal

Trump also chimed in on trade with Europe, saying that the EU “has been as tough on the United States as China. Just not as much money involved.”

When asked about auto tariffs, Trump said this was still up for review but that the administration was “looking at something to combat” unfair practices on the part of Europe.

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