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White House backpedals on Trump's claim that China will drop auto tariffs

by Justin King

Directly contradicting the president, top economic advisor Larry Kudlow cautioned that "we don't yet have a specific agreement."

White House officials have already begun backpedaling on President Trump's claim of an agreement with China to drop tariffs on US cars entering the world's largest automotive market.

Following a meeting between Trump and China President Xi Jinping in Argentina, Trump took to Twitter to announce that China has "agreed to reduce and remove tariffs" on cars imported from US factories.

Trump's top aides apparently interpreted the meeting a bit differently. Speaking to journalists in a follow-up conference call, economic advisor Larry Kudlow cautioned "we don't yet have a specific agreement on that," though he expects the tariffs to be dropped, according to the .

China only recently signaled that it may back off from its strict foreign ownership requirements for car factories. US automakers have been forced to pay a 40-percent tariff to import cars from US factories, or create a 50:50 joint venture with a Chinese firm to build cars in China.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also issued a carefully worded statement, noting that there is an "immediate focus" on reducing auto tariffs but "there's a lot of work to be done over the next 90 days."

Trump recently voiced frustration with General Motors' decision to close a handful of North American factories, including a plant near an Ohio city where he promised voters that jobs would finally be coming back under his leadership. An actual deal with China to drop tariffs could help offset the political pain associated with the GM layoffs.