President Donald Trump said he was postponing the imposition of five per cent extra tariffs on Chinese goods by two weeks, a move that delays the next escalation of the trade war and brightens the backdrop for upcoming negotiations.

“At the request of the Vice Premier of China, Liu He, and due to the fact that the People’s Republic of China will be celebrating their 70th Anniversary on October 1st, we have agreed, as a gesture of good will, to move the increased Tariffs on 250 Billion Dollars worth of goods (25 per cent to 30 per cent), from October 1st to October 15th,” Trump wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

S&P 500 futures climbed 0.5 per cent and the offshore yuan strengthened 0.3 per cent against the dollar. The yen fell.

Negotiators are due to meet in Washington in coming weeks to push forward talks to end the trade war, which is causing increasing economic damage as it stretches into its second year. There’s little sign that substantive progress is being made on the two countries’ differences, while Trump still has further tariff increases lined up.

“The negotiators have had a year to come to an agreement, and they remain structurally at odds on key issues,” said Andrew Polk, co-founder of research firm Trivium China in Beijing. “Another two-week reprieve doesn’t change those fundamentals.”

Embedded Image
Liu He (Alex Edelman/Bloomberg)

On Wednesday, China announced a range of U.S. goods to be exempted from 25 per cent extra tariffs enacted last year. While that may create some good will in Washington, China is keeping the pressure on U.S. agricultural exports like soybeans produced in key Trump-supporting states.

An editorial Wednesday in the Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper said the exemptions were a goodwill gesture that would benefit some Chinese and U.S. companies. The paper’s editor tweeted that he saw Trump’s decision to postpone extra tariffs as creating “good vibes” for the early-October talks.

“Trump’s goodwill gesture suggests that the trade war is starting to bite and the U.S. may be more eager to close a deal,” said Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research Pte. in Singapore. “The clock is ticking and Trump’s approval ratings are sliding, with manufacturing now in recession.”

Trump escalated the U.S.-China trade war in August when he announced an increase in the levy on US$250 billion of Chinese goods to 30 per cent, from 25 per cent, starting Oct. 1. Further increases are planned for December.

The delay “shows Trump doesn’t want to increase tariffs before the trade talks in early October, and it creates good conditions,” said Tommy Xie, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore. “It adds to the hope that there’ll be good news from the October meeting, and markets will wait and see.”

--With assistance from Adam Haigh and Kevin Hamlin.