Hong Kong (CNN Business) – The United States and China held talks Monday to discuss the huge challenges facing the global economy amid mounting speculation that some Trump-era tariffs could be cut to ease inflation and boost growth.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and China’s Vice Premier Liu He — Beijing’s top economic official — had a “substantive conversation” on a call, according to a statement by the US Treasury.
The talks, which readouts from both sides suggest were initiated by the United States, were described as “candid” and come as Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal report that the Biden administration may lift some tariffs on Chinese goods as soon as this week.
The Chinese readout noted that the exchange was “constructive” and “pragmatic.” It added that the two sides discussed “views on the macroeconomic situation and the stability of the global industrial chain and supply chain.”
Both sides agreed that the global economy is facing severe challenges, and placed “great significance” on better policy coordination between China and the United States, it added.
From the World Bank to Wall Street, there is a growing concern about the risk of a global recession, and inflation not seen in decades is hammering consumers in the United States and Europe.
China’s economy, meanwhile, has been battered by the country’s zero-Covid policy. Analysts worry that the Chinese economy could contract in the second quarter, putting the government’s annual growth target of 5.5% for 2022 out of reach.
The Chinese side also “expressed its concern over issues such as the lifting of additional tariffs and sanctions imposed by the United States on China and fair treatment of Chinese companies,” according to the Chinese statement.
The US readout did not mention tariffs or sanctions but stated that Yellen “raised issues of concern” including the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on the global economy and what it called China’s “unfair, non-market” economic practices.
The call between the two senior economic officials comes after Bloomberg reported Monday that Biden may announce a “rollback of some US tariffs on Chinese consumer goods” this week.
The report, which cited unnamed sources, said the move is seen “as a way to counter accelerating inflation.”
The Wall Street Journal also said Monday that Biden may decide on Chinese tariffs this week, citing people familiar with the situation, but added that the decision is “constrained by competing policy aims: addressing inflation and maintaining economic pressure on Beijing.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The timing makes sense,” said Jingyang Chen, Asian foreign exchange strategist at HSBC, pointing to the fourth anniversary on July 6 of the start of former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China
On that day in 2018, US tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports took effect. Since then, tensions have ratcheted up dramatically, with the two sides imposing steep new tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s exports.
Following months of negotiations, a trade truce was signed in January 2020. But bilateral relations have remained tense under the Biden administration.
However, spiking inflation in the United States has fueled expectations that the administration will ease some of the tariffs to help curb rising prices.
A cut in US tariffs is “around the corner,” said Ken Cheung, chief Asian foreign exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank, on Tuesday.
The Biden administration has “strong political motivation” to ease tariffs in order to bring down inflation before the mid-term elections in November, he added.
— CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.