Trump says he'll sign China trade deal Jan. 15

By Doug Palmer

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he plans to sign a preliminary trade deal with China on Jan. 15 in Washington and will travel to Beijing later in 2020 to begin talks on a phase two agreement.

"I will be signing our very large and comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China on January 15," Trump wrote on Twitter. "The ceremony will take place at the White House. High level representatives of China will be present. At a later date I will be going to Beijing where talks will begin on Phase Two!"

The two sides announced earlier this month they had reached a preliminary agreement on a raft of issues including financial services market openings, forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection and currency manipulation.

China, as part of the agreement, has also pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. farm goods, energy, manufactured products and services by about $200 billion over the next two years, U.S. officials said.

However, Beijing has not publicly confirmed those amounts, which U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said would include $80 billion to $100 billion in agricultural purchases.

In exchange, Trump canceled plans to slap a 15 percent tariff on an additional $160 billion worth of Chinese goods, including laptops and smartphones, beginning Dec. 15. He also reduced duties on another $120 billion worth of goods to 7.5 percent, from 15 percent previously. But he left a 25 percent duty on another $250 billion worth of goods in place.

U.S. officials had previously said Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He would sign the agreement the first full week of January. The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that Liu would be coming to Washington this weekend in the expectation of signing the deal next week, but neither the White House nor USTR confirmed that report.

There was no further word from the White House on when Trump would travel to Beijing.

Expectations are muted that the two sides will reach a more comprehensive phase two agreement covering issues such as Beijing's support for state-owned enterprises and government subsidy programs before the November 2020 presidential election.

However, some observers believe the two sides could announce further tariff reductions next year as the phase one deal is implemented.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, in an interview Tuesday on CNBC, said there were still "a lot" of outstanding issues to tackle in the phase two deal, and probably in a phase three deal as well. That includes "the cyber intrusions into our business networks and the broader problem of espionage," as well as China's state-owned enterprises selling goods at unfairly low prices, he said.

Navarro also noted the phase one deal contains "very interesting" language aimed at reducing China's "horrific" trade in counterfeit goods, which are readily available to consumers over the internet.

"I’m going to be spending a lot of my time in 2020 making sure that when you go on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba you don’t get stuck with counterfeits from China," Navarro said.

He also indicated it could be a while longer before the full text of the phase one deal is released. "We’re just waiting for the Chinese translation of the 86-page agreement," he said.