US and China sign ‘phase one’ deal


Liu He and Donald TrumpImage copyright
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Liu He and Donald Trump

The US and China have signed an agreement aimed at easing a trade war that has rattled markets and weighed on the global economy.

Speaking in Washington, US President Donald Trump said the pact would be “transformative” for the US economy.

Chinese leaders called it a “win-win” deal that would help foster better relations.

China has pledged to boost US imports by $200bn above 2017 levels and strengthen intellectual property rules.

In exchange, US has agreed to halve some of the new tariffs it has imposed on Chinese products. However the majority of the border taxes remain in place, prompting business groups to call for talks to continue.

“There’s a lot of work to do ahead,” said Jeremie Waterman, president of the China Center at the US Chamber of Commerce. “Bottom line is, they should enjoy today but not wait too long to get back to the table for phase two.”

The US and China have engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff war since 2018, which has led to extra import taxes being levied on more than $450bn worth of traded goods. The ongoing dispute has disrupted trade flows, dampened global economic growth and unnerved investors.

‘Righting wrongs’

At a signing ceremony in Washington, attended by top Republican donors and business leaders, Mr Trump said the deal sets the stage for a stronger relationship between the US and China.

“Far beyond even this deal, it’s going to lead to an even stronger world peace,” he said.

Mr Trump has described the accord as a “phase one” agreement and said the administration will take up other issues – such as China’s state subsidies – in future negotiations.

Despite the business complaints, he has defended maintaining the bulk of the tariffs, saying they will provide leverage in future talks.

The US accuses China of “unfair” business practices, such as providing subsidies for domestic businesses and administrative rules that have made it difficult for US firms to operate in the country.

This deal addresses some, but far from all, of those issues.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who signed the deal on behalf of China, said the agreement was rooted in “equality and mutual respect” and defended his country’s economic model in his remarks.

“China has developed a political system and a model of economic development that suits its national reality,” he said.

“This doesn’t mean that China and the US cannot work together. On the contrary, our two countries share enormous common commercial interests.”

“We hope both sides will abide by and keep the agreement in earnest.”