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US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping. /AFP-FILE.

Kenya

US-China ‘Phase One’ trade deal to be signed January 15

US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping. /AFP-FILE.

WASHINGTON, United States Dec 31 – A partial new US-China trade agreement will be signed in the middle of next month, US President Donald Trump said Tuesday, announcing that he will also then travel to China for continued talks.

Trump’s tweet, sent moments before Wall Street opened for the year’s final trading day, set a calendar date for an event that had hung in uncertainty in recent weeks as details remained scant.

Washington and Beijing earlier this month announced a “Phase One” trade deal, de-escalating their nearly two-year trade war as Trump reduced or canceled some tariffs while Beijing promised to adopt trade reforms and buy more US farm exports.

“I will be signing our very large and comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China on January 15,” Trump tweeted moments before Wall Street was due to open.

“The ceremony will take place at the White House. High-level representatives of China will be present.”

US and Chinese officials have said the agreement includes protections for intellectual property, food and farm goods, financial services and foreign exchange, and a provision for dispute resolution.

Under the new deal, China has committed to a minimum of $200 billion in increased purchases over the next two years from US manufacturers, farmers, energy producers and service providers, according to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

– On to Phase Two? –
Trump said Tuesday he will travel to Beijing to continue negotiations “at a later date” — showing willingness to pursue talks that have acrimoniously broken down more than once.

Word of the truce has driven a Wall Street rally this month, but US stocks were edging lower toward midday on Tuesday.

The two economic powers have been locked in a bruising trade war since the first half of 2018 that has roiled the global economy and helped send the manufacturing sector into decline.

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In 2017, before the US-China trade war was unleashed, the United States exported some $130 billion in goods to the Asian giant.

Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, told CNBC on Tuesday that the Phase One agreement was only one plank in the Trump trade agenda, which encompasses other newly negotiated agreements in North America and Asia.

“Next year… we’re going to try to get something going with Great Britain, Vietnam, Europe and anybody else who wants to fairly trade with the United States,” he said.

Nevertheless, some economists and trade experts say Phase One was largely a victory for Beijing.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which has largely favored Trump’s aggressive trade posture with China, said agreeing to remove tariffs amounted to “giving away much of our leverage, while kicking the can down the road on the most meaningful trade issues with China.”

The truce also offers Chinese President Xi Jinping breathing space as he faces a slowing economy and political trouble in Hong Kong.

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