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US tariffs will remain no matter what coronavirus does to China's economy – US trade advisor

US tariffs will remain no matter what coronavirus does to China's economy – US trade advisor
Washington will not make tariff concessions to Beijing, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro has said, amid fears that the outbreak of a deadly virus in China could take a toll on its economy.

“That’s a spin that’s coming right out of Wall Street, and it really, I think, it does a disservice to this whole crisis to bring that into the discussion,” the official told CNBC on Wednesday, when asked about the possible removal of levies on Chinese imports.

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Navarro added that the tariffs are in place because China “engages in massive unfair subsidies,” using state-owned companies to put American rivals out of business. “And the tariffs also ensure that we come back for phase two,” he said, referring to the second part of the trade deal with China.

The US and China inked ‘phase one’ of the trade agreement, intended to ease tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, on January 15. While Washington agreed not to impose new levies and lowered some existing ones, the majority of the tariffs remain in place. US President Donald Trump earlier vowed to remove them if the second part of the deal is reached, but there are concerns that it might not happen in the near future, or at all.

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Originating in China’s Wuhan, the coronavirus has been rapidly spreading across China and beyond since the end of last year. In recent weeks, the number of infected people has risen quickly, jumping to more than 7,700 as of Thursday morning and reaching the figures seen during 2003’s SARS epidemic. The death toll from the latest outbreak has climbed to 170.

While Chinese authorities are trying to stop the spread of the virus, putting cities in the epicenter on lockdown and preventing people from gathering in large numbers, many global carriers have cancelled flights to the country. Last week, foreign companies like McDonald's and Starbucks began to shut down cafes. Some US tech giants have suspended employee travel to China and closed their offices and some of their stores there.

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