Fri, Jan 10, 2020 - Page 10 News List

China’s Vice Premier Liu to sign trade deal in US

NOT JUST HYPE?No version of a text for any agreement has been made public and Chinese officials have yet to publicly commit to key points, such as raising US imports

Reuters, BEIJING

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He leaves trade talks at the offices of the US Trade Representative in Washington on May 10 last year.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴), head of the country’s negotiation team in trade talks with the US, is to sign a “phase 1” deal in Washington next week, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said yesterday.

Liu is to visit Washington from Monday to Wednesday next week, ministry spokesman Gao Feng (高峰) told reporters at a regular briefing.

Negotiating teams from both sides remain in close communication on the particular arrangements of the signing, he said.

The phase 1 deal with China would be signed on Wednesday at the White House, US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday last week.

Trump also said that he would sign the deal with “high-level representatives of China,” and that he would later travel to Beijing to begin talks on the next phase.

The US launched the trade dispute with Beijing a year-and-a-half ago over allegations of unfair trade practices, such as theft of US intellectual property and subsidies that unfairly benefit Chinese state-owned companies.

The phase 1 deal reached last month is expected to cut tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of US farm, energy and manufactured goods, while addressing some disputes over intellectual property.

However, no version of the text has been made public and Chinese officials have yet to publicly commit to key points, such as increasing imports of US goods and services by US$200 billion over two years.

China would not increase its annual low-tariff import quotas for corn, wheat and rice to accommodate stepped-up purchases of farm goods from the US, local media group Caixin quoted Chinese Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Han Jun (韓俊) as saying on Tuesday.

The move could make it more difficult for Beijing to meet import commitments in the trade deal due to be signed next week.

The agreement would likely double China’s US$24 billion in pre-trade dispute purchases to between US$40 billion and US$50 billion annually, US President Donald Trump said last month.

When asked if China would have to reduce grain imports from other countries to meet its US commitments, Gao said that China would continue to improve the administration of tariff quotas for wheat, corn and soybeans in accordance with WTO commitments, and would make full use of quotas according to market conditions.

This is not inconsistent with expanding agricultural imports from the US, Gao said.

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