US trade representative denies report he told business executives next China tariffs on hold

  • The U.S. has already put 10 percent tariffs on more than $200 billion of Chinese goods, and President Donald Trump has threatened to place tariffs on another $267 billion of goods in an effort to get China to the negotiating table.
  • U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had told some executives the next round of tariffs are on hold, the Financial Times reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
  • Ambassador Lighthizer's office issued a statement later on Thursday denying he told executives that.
President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping make joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping make joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017.

The top American trade negotiator for the White House has denied telling certain executives that planned tariffs are on a back burner.

The Financial Times reported Thursday that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had told some executives the next round of China tariffs are on hold, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Shares of Caterpillar, a big U.S. company that has been feeling the heat from tariffs, rose more than 4 percent as investors digested the report.

But later in the afternoon, Lighthizer's office told CNBC, "Ambassador Lighthizer has made no representations to industry executives that future Section 301 tariffs are on hold." The statement said the plan for tariffs outlined in September "has not changed at all. Any reports to the contrary are incorrect."

The U.S. has already put 10 percent tariffs on more than $200 billion of Chinese goods and is set to raise that to 25 percent next year. President Donald Trump has also threatened to put tariffs on another $267 billion of goods in an effort to get China to the negotiating table.

Trump and China's President Xi Jinping are supposed to meet later this month at the G-20 summit in Argentina to discuss trade and other issues. Both sides have stepped up efforts on a truce in the escalating trade conflict, the FT reported.

After a Nov. 1 phone call from Trump to Xi, China responded to U.S. requests on a variety of issues. A full resolution on trade isn't expected to be hammered out immediately, however, the report said.

Still the renewal of talks was seen as a positive sign. "We're having communications at all levels of the U.S. and Chinese government," Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told CNBC earlier this week.

Sources told the FT that they expected Trump and Xi to reach a handshake agreement that would put a pause on the escalation of tensions without actually resolving the underlying issues. It's the same tactic Trump used in negotiations on trade with the European Union and on denuclearization with North Korea, the report said.

Read the full FT report here.

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