The US reportedly offered to cut China tariffs in half ahead of crucial trade deadline

Getty Images / Saul Loeb

The US reportedly offered this week to remove a portion of punitive tariffs against China, raising hopes for progress in a more than yearlong trade dispute that has rattled the two largest economies.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Trump administration could lift as many as half of the $US360 billion worth of the duties it levied on Chinese products early 2018. Negotiators also offered to suspend plans to extend tariffs to all remaining Chinese imports Sunday, unnamed people briefed on the matter told the Journal.

The White House declined to comment. The Office of the US Trade Representative did not respond to an email inquiry.

China has demanded the US lift tariffs as part of the interim trade agreement announced in October, which the White House said included commitments on intellectual property and financial market access. Trump last month denied he had agreed to a tariff rollback.

The two sides have since struggled to hammer out the terms of the so-called phase one deal. China has been reluctant to commit on paper to key US terms, including a quota for the amount of agricultural products it must purchase from the US each year.

As financial markets opened Thursday, President Donald Trump struck an optimistic tone toward trade negotiations. All three major US averages jumped in early trading.

“Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China,” he wrote on Twitter. “They want it, and so do we!”

Trump has regularly wavered between the prospect of de-escalation with China and renewed tariff threats over the past year and a half. As recently as last week, Trump suggested he might prefer to wait until after the 2020 election to strike an agreement.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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