By Josh Zumbrun and Andrew Restuccia 

WASHINGTON -- President Trump said the U.S. hasn't yet agreed to a rollback of tariffs, disputing a statement from China's Commerce Ministry on Thursday that tariff relief would be part of the first phase of a trade accord between the two nations.

Stocks fell Friday on the president's remarks, which raised questions about how smoothly negotiations between Washington and Beijing are proceeding. The two sides have struggled to get on the same page.

"They'd like to have a rollback," Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. "I haven't agreed to anything. China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, not a complete rollback because they know I won't do it. But we're getting along very well with China. They want to make a deal. Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do. I'm very happy right now. We're taking in billions of dollars. I'm very happy. China would like to make a deal much more than I would."

On Thursday, the Chinese Commerce Ministry had said that China and the U.S. had agreed that they would begin rolling back tariffs as part of their deal. But almost immediately after the Chinese made their announcement, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration didn't confirm the Chinese statement, and there were mixed signals from the administration on whether it was accurate.

Senior trade adviser Peter Navarro disputed the extent of the agreement over tariff removal in an interview Thursday night on Fox Business Network.

"There is no agreement at this time to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of the phase one deal," Mr. Navarro said. "The only person who can make that decision is President Donald J. Trump, and it's as simple as that," he said.

Mr. Trump's remarks Friday confirmed that the president hasn't made any final agreement to roll back the tariffs.

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on about $360 billion worth of Chinese imports, in four different tranches. It was never clear from Thursday's statements how many of these tranches might be affected, or on what timeline.

The removal of tariffs has been a recurring sticking point in the negotiations. Beijing has pressed the U.S. to end all the tariffs, describing that as one of its bottom lines when talks fell apart earlier this year. Washington has discussed removing tariffs as part of a compliance mechanism, under which tariffs would come off gradually if China fulfills its commitments under a trade deal.

Write to Josh Zumbrun at and Andrew Restuccia at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 08, 2019 11:24 ET (16:24 GMT)

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