While there were rumors flying around regarding US delay of the December 15 tranche of tariffs on China, nothing has been confirmed by any named official so far. It’s reported that President Donald Trump is going to hold a high-stake meeting on Thursday with all his trade advisers to make the final decision.

Officials are seen as rather split on the issue. It’s believed that China hawks like Peter Navarro would most likely prefer to hit the button on new tariffs. On the other hand, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could prefer a hold. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s position is relatively unclear.

The political implication of the situation is rather significant though. It’s rather clear now that Trump’s administration hasn’t seen enough commitments from China to justify at least a delay without debate. The ball is suddenly back on the US’s court. A tariff delay without sufficient concessions from China would in no doubt weaken Trump’s hand for the next phase of trade talks, or even the closure of phase one.

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On the other hand, the impact of tariffs imposed so far could be seen by some as relatively muted, or at least not as disastrous as some claimed. Trump’s team could instead go for more tariffs while emphasizing to the public that they won’t be painful. Either way, the decision would be know rather soon.


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