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Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said in a briefing with reporters Monday he will put out a Federal Register notice tomorrow saying that the Trump administration will raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, and that importers will begin paying the new tariffs "the first minute of Friday."

Why it matters: The business community and markets had been cautiously hopeful that Trump's Sunday tweets were an empty threat to create leverage over China and that he'd ultimately back down. That's still possible, of course, but Lighthizer made clear he didn't think that was going to happen.

Driving the news: Lighthizer said he still expects the top Chinese negotiator, Liu He, to come to Washington on Thursday, though he said he hadn't spoken to the vice premier since he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left Beijing last week. Mnuchin, who was also in the briefing, said he hadn't spoken to Liu He either since he left China.

  • Mnuchin said he thought until recent days that the Trump administration was on the precipice of a "historic" deal with China — one that was hyper-detailed, running to almost 150 pages. 
  • He said the past week had brought a "big change in direction for the negotiations" with the Chinese backtracking on specific commitments that they had made in writing.

Mnuchin and Lighthizer wouldn't say what, specifically, the Chinese were trying to re-trade. But they both stressed that China's team wasn't squabbling over small stuff. Lighthizer and Mnuchin used words like "substantive" and "substantial" to characterize the attempted Chinese backflip.

Between the lines: Mnuchin left slightly more room for another twist this week. He made a point of saying that Liu He had been "very helpful to work with" and he'd built a strong relationship with the vice premier. He said President Trump had been willing to extend the deadline on tariff hikes previously because of the "substantial progress" they'd made. 

  • Lighthizer said his interpretation of what happened was that some on the Chinese side found the commitments the negotiating team had already agreed on to be unacceptable. (Translation: The Chinese side has hardliners, too.) "I would use the word reneging on prior commitments," Lighthizer said.
  • Mnuchin, who is less hawkish on China, left slightly more room for a last minute plot twist. He said if the Chinese come to Washington and are willing to go back to their original commitments and negotiate in good faith, then of course he and Lighthizer would take that to President Trump. But as of now, the tariffs are going ahead, he said.

What's next? A reporter asked Lighthizer what he would say to American businesses who already have goods on the water headed to U.S. ports, which will face significantly higher costs if the tariffs go into effect. Lighthizer said, "There'll be ways to work out" the situation but he gave no specifics. He said it's been clear for some time that something like this — a dramatic tariff increase — could happen. U.S. businesses, in other words, should have been prepared for this.

Go deeper

Anti-Trump lawmakers' private security expenses ballooned after Jan. 6 riot

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on April 14. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Image

Members of Congress are spending tens of thousands of dollars on personal security for them and their families in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, according to an analysis of first-quarter Federal Election Commission reports by Punchbowl News.

Between the lines: Private security expenditures were especially common among anti-Trump Republicans and high-profile Democrats who earlier this year voted to impeach and convict the former president for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, signaling they fear for the safety of themselves and their families.

1 hour ago - World

Jimmy Lai among Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders sentenced to prison

Students standing under a banner during a flag raising ceremony on the first annual National Security Education Day in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Hong Kong court sentenced a group of the city's most prominent pro-democracy activists to up to 18 months in prison Friday for organizing a massive unauthorized protest in August 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, AP reports.

Why it matters: Critics say the sentences send the message that even peaceful pro-democracy activism will be severely punished. They mark a continuation of Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure, designed to crack down opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

Local news moves to the inbox

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A slew of new companies are launching platforms for local newsletters, a shift that could help finally bring the local news industry into the digital era.

Driving the news: Substack, the email publishing platform for independent journalists, on Thursday announced a new local news platform.

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