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US, China sign phase 1 of trade deal; tariffs remain in place

PTI Washington | Updated on January 16, 2020 Published on January 16, 2020

US President Donald Trump (center) and Liu He, China's Vice Premier, (left), display the signed US-China "phase-one" trade agreement during a ceremony in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, January 15, 2020.   -  Bloomberg

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.

Describing this as the start of new chapter in US-China relations, Vice President Mike Pence quoted an ancient Chinese proverb: “let today be the beginning of a brighter future... more prosperous” for both the American and Chinese people.

The historic agreement

The agreement was signed in front of Mike Pence, several of his Cabinet Colleagues including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and top officials.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kessinger, who is considered to be the architect of the modern US-China relations, was present on the occasion.

Who’s Who of the American corporate world including Master Card CEO Ajay Banga and Sanjay Mehrotra from Micron were also present in the East Room of the White House during the signing ceremony.

“This historic agreement includes a major commitment by China to make significant reforms in a wide range of critical areas and to make substantial additional purchases of American goods and services in the coming years,” the White House said.

This agreement is strengthened by a strong dispute resolution system that ensures prompt and effective implementation and enforcement of this historic deal, it said.

Reactions to the trade deal

Congressman Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee described this as a historic day for American workers and businesses.

“President Trump, Trade Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Mnuchin are achieving what no White House has before them: a strong, real and enforceable commitment from China to end unfair trade practices and level the playing field for American workers, manufacturers, farmers, and businesses,” he said.

“I hope this proves to be a turning point in our economic relationship with China, but I’ve seen enough history to be clear-eyed,” Senator Chuck Grassley said.

“Not only must China follow through with its commitments in this phase one deal, but also work toward a comprehensive agreement that ends forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft and unfair restrictions on US goods, including agriculture. Only then will we know if China can be a reliable economic partner in the 21st century,” Grassley said.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden, who is a leading Democratic presidential candidate, alleged that China is the big winner of Trump’s “phase-one” trade deal with Beijing.

“True to form, Trump is getting precious little in return for the significant pain and uncertainty he has imposed on our economy, farmers, and workers,” he said.

“The deal won’t actually resolve the real issues at the heart of the dispute, including industrial subsidies, support for state-owned enterprises, cybertheft, and other predatory practices in trade and technology,” Biden said.

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Published on January 16, 2020
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