Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow: Tariffs might come before negotiations with China

  • The latest move by China in the escalating trade conflict with the United States was "very positive," top Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow says.
  • However, he says that doesn't necessarily mean that tariffs won't happen before negotiations occur.

The latest move by China in the escalating trade conflict with the United States was "very positive," but that doesn't necessarily mean that tariffs won't happen before negotiations occur, top Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC on Wednesday.

The two countries have announced tit-for-tat tariff plans against each other. However, on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he plans to open up China's economy, including lowering tariffs for autos and other products and improving intellectual property protection for foreign firms.

"I think what's going to happen is we are going to have negotiations at some point. There may be tariffs before, maybe not. We shouldn't panic," Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said on "Closing Bell."

He added, "So far there have been no tariffs implemented. … and you're not going to see any of that for probably a couple of months."

President Donald Trump unveiled a list of Chinese imports last week that his administration aims to target as part of its crackdown on trade with China. Shortly after the announcement, the Asian nation announced additional tariffs. That led Trump to threaten another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, to which China responded by saying it would "fight back with a major response" if provoked.

The back-and-forth rhetoric fueled concern among investors about a possible trade war. However that concern appeared to ease after Xi's comments Tuesday.

"China does not seek [a] trade surplus. We have a genuine desire to increase imports and achieve greater balance of international payments under the current account," Xi said, according to a translation of his speech.

Kudlow believes it's important to "clean up" the issue of China's alleged theft of intellectual property from U.S firms, noting that "China's the problem, not Trump."

However, he urged everyone to "calmly look" at the overall trade issue.

"I'm always an optimist that where there's a will there's a way and I believe both presidents want to get something good done," Kudlow said.

— CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld and Huileng Tan contributed to this report.