The US on Wednesday signed the first phase of a trade deal with China, which President Donald Trump described as historic, concluding more than a year of tough negotiations including several months of suspension of talks between the two largest economies of the world. The first phase of the trade deal includes Intellection Property (IP) Protection and Enforcement, ending forced technology transfer, dramatic expansion of American agriculture, removing barriers to American financial services, ending currency manipulation, rebalancing the US-China trade relationship and effective dispute resolution.
The agreement was signed by President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Politburo Member and Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China. In his remarks, Trump called the trade agreement signing "a momentous step... to a future of fair and reciprocal trade." The two countries are "writing the wrongs of the past," the US President said, adding that he would soon visit China and thanked his Chinese counterpart for this deal.
"I'll be going over to China in the not-too-distant future to reciprocate," he said. This is a transformative deal that will bring great benefits for the two countries, Trump said, hoping that this will even lead to a peaceful world. Trump said that China has made substantial and enforceable commitment to protecting American ideas. At the same time, he said, punitive tariffs on China would remain in place till the time the second phase of the trade deal is agreed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his letter to Trump which was read out at the signing ceremony in the White House, said the phase one deal was good for China and the US and it needed to be earnestly implemented by both sides. In an apparent reference to Trump's crackdown on China's telecom giant Huawei, Xi hoped that Chinese companies will be treated fairly by the US.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu said China and the US, the world's two largest economies and two major players in international affairs with great responsibilities, reached the phase one deal "with the big picture in mind" and by "acknowledging and properly managing" their differences. China will work with the United States on the principle of equality and mutual respect to ensure good implementation of their phase-one economic and trade agreement, he said.
He added that the deal is not in conflict with the legitimate rights and interests of any third party, and is also in accordance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Calling economic and trade cooperation "the propeller of the overall bilateral relationship", Liu noted the two countries have encountered some difficulties in economic and trade areas over the past two years. "There have been several setbacks in negotiations, but we were not overwhelmed by difficulties," Liu said.
After continuous efforts by both teams, China and the US reached the phase one deal based on the principle of equality and mutual respect, which illustrated a Chinese saying "There are always more solution than problems". The world's two largest economies have spent 18 months embroiled in a bitter trade dispute that imposed tit-for-tat levies on each other's commodities, mechanical parts and finished goods.
Trump had launched the trade war with China in 2018 demanding Beijing to reduce massive trade deficit. His demands included an intrusive verification mechanism to supervise Beijing's promise to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets. Both sides so far have imposed additional tariffs on nearly USD half trillion worth of goods.
So far, the US has imposed tariffs on more than USD 360 billion of Chinese goods, and China has retaliated with tariffs on more than USD 110 billion of US products. State-run Global Times reported that among the key takeaways from the agreement was China's pledge to increase purchases of US products over the next two years and the US commitment to roll back tariffs in phases on Chinese goods. Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that under the deal China has committed to buy 200 billion worth of goods from the US in the next two years.
The agreement also covered areas of disputes between Chinese and the US officials including the protection of intellectual property rights, technology transfer and an implementation review mechanism. The signing of the deal presented a stark contrast to the tremendous hostility and brinkmanship between the two countries of the past 660 or so days and the theatrical back-and-forth in negotiations, including 13 high-level rounds, the Global Times report said.
Commenting on the deal, Einar Tangen Beijing based current affairs commentator told PTI that Wednesday's deal is more of a trade truce and much of the promises made by China to purchase US goods cannot be enforced. "The overall signal from the phase one agreement is much larger than the content of the deal itself," Wei Jianguo, a former Chinese vice commerce minister, told the Global Times. "It is a boon for the world that the world's largest and second-largest economies have hit the pause key in the trade war".
"The phase one deal means that China and the US have entered a new relatively predictable cycle," Li Yong, a deputy chairman of the expert committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Daily. "It will be able to help revitalise the global value chain disrupted by the trade war and remedy at least some of loss".