US, China agree ‘Phase 1’ trade deal; Trump suspends October tariff hike

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks with China's Vice Premier Liu He during a meeting with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House after two days of trade negotiations in Washington October 11, 2019. — Reuters pic
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks with China's Vice Premier Liu He during a meeting with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House after two days of trade negotiations in Washington October 11, 2019. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 — The United States and China agreed yesterday to the first phase of a deal to end a trade war, prompting President Donald Trump to suspend a threatened tariff hike, but officials said the agreement had to be put on paper and more work was required to get it finalised.

The partial accord, covering agriculture, currency and some aspects of intellectual property protections, represented the biggest step toward resolution of a 15-month tariff war between the world’s two largest economies that has hit financial markets and slowed global growth.

The announcement did not include many details, however, and Trump said it could take up to five weeks to get the deal written.

“We will not sign an agreement unless we get and can tell the president that this is on paper,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said as the two sides gathered with Trump at the White House.

With Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sitting across a desk from him in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters that the two sides were very close to ending their trade dispute.

“There was a lot of friction between the United States and China, and now it’s a lovefest. That’s a good thing,” he said.

Trump spoke after two days of high-level negotiations in Washington between Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and a delegation led by Liu on the Chinese side.

Mnuchin said that Trump had agreed not to proceed with a hike in tariffs to 30 per cent from 25 per cent on about US$250 billion (RM1.04 trillion) in Chinese goods that was supposed to have gone into effect on Tuesday.

But Lighthizer said Trump had not made a decision about tariffs that were subject to go into effect in December.

When asked about those tariffs, Trump said: “I think that we’re going to have a deal that’s a great deal that’s beyond tariffs.”

Trump had previously insisted he would not be satisfied with a partial deal to resolve his two-year effort to change China’s trade, intellectual property and industrial policy practices, which he argues cost millions of US jobs.

US stocks ended more than 1 per cent higher yesterday but well off the day’s highs after the announcement, with the S&P 500 up 1.09 per cent after rising as much as 1.7 per cent earlier on hopes of a deal.

Duties

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are both scheduled to attend a November 16 summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in Santiago, Chile.

Both sides have imposed duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods during their dispute, but there have been positive signs in recent days.

China’s securities regulator yesterday unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time. Increasing foreign access to the sector is among the US demands at the trade talks.

Beijing previously said it would further open up its financial sector on its own terms and at its own pace.

On Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture confirmed net sales of 142,172 tonnes of US pork to China in the week ended October 3, the largest weekly sale to the world’s top pork market on record. — Reuters

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