Trump boasts trade pact with China, but some say it's too little, too late
US President Donald Trump has signed the first phase of a new trade agreement with China after two years of tension between the two nations that have rattled economies around the world
16 January 2020 - 19:00
President Donald Trump and China's chief trade negotiator, Liu He, signed the deal at a packed press conference, after which the Mr Trump declared: 'Today, we are taking a momentous step towards a future of fair and reciprocal trade. Together we are righting the wrong of the past.'
He added: 'At long last Americans have a government that puts them first at the negotiating table. This is the biggest deal anybody has ever seen.'
The first phase of the deal will further open the Chinese market to US companies, and includes roughly US$200 billion in Chinese purchases of American goods and services. But it will also leave in place much of the $360 billion worth of tariffs that the US has already imposed on Chinese goods, and the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.
Mr Trump campaigned on tackling what he saw as China's unfair trade practices, accusing the country of 'raping' the US and perpetuating 'the greatest theft in the history of the world'.
However, Mr Trump said tariffs would remain in place until a second phase of the deal is signed, reports The Guardian, UK.
The treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, called the deal a 'very significant agreement' but said the Trump administration would impose further tariffs if China does not abide by the agreement and move to address other issues in the next phase of discussions.
'This gives China a big incentive to get back to the table and agree to the additional issues that are still unresolved,' Mr Mnuchin told CNBC.
Although the deal is expected to give US companies greater protection for their trade secrets in China, big issues remain. The US wants China to address the huge subsidies it gives to industries including steel and solar panels that have allowed Chinese companies to dominate those markets with cheap exports. Beijing also rejected a call to include a pledge not to hack US companies, arguing such a promise was not part of a trade deal.
Eswar Prasad, a Cornell economist and former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division said this first phase 'hardly addresses in any substantive way the fundamental sources of trade and economic tensions between the two sides, which will continue to fester.'
Mary Lovely, professor of economics at Syracuse University, described the deal as a 'trade truce with large state-directed purchases attached'. Even so, she wrote, 'the truce is good news for the US and the world economy'.
The phase one deal cancels planned US tariffs on Chinese-made cellphones, toys and laptop computers and halves the tariff rate to 7.5 per cent on about $120 billion worth of other Chinese goods. But it will leave in place 25 per cent tariffs on a vast, $250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by US manufacturers.
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