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US tariff delay on Chinese imports not 'quid pro quo,' says commerce secretary

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that the Trump administration's decision to delay upcoming tariffs on certain imports was not a trade concession to China but a move to help U.S. customers.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Aug. 13 postponed the planned 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods — including cellphones, laptops and video game consoles — until Dec. 15 and removed proposed tariffs on some other products. The tariffs originally were slated to begin Sept. 1.

Ross told CNBC in an interview that the decision was not a "quid pro quo" but intended to avoid disruption during the Christmas holidays. However, U.S. President Donald Trump said Aug. 13 that he delayed the decision because of a "very good call with China."

Ross also rejected claims that Trump permitted the move to calm the volatility in the U.S. stock market. After a dull start to the week, the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closed 1.5% and 2% higher, respectively, on Tuesday, following the announcement.

The indexes, however, opened in the red today on fears of a recession as the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury stood at 1.611%, the lowest since 2016. The yield on 2-year Treasurys was hovering near 1.603% at 10 a.m. ET.

The commerce secretary told CNBC that an analysis on the planned tariffs began "since the hearings were announced by the USTR. Even though they were only announced as being imposed recently, the analytical work began well before that."