Trump signs 'landmark' first phase of China trade deal amid tariffs war

Chris Riotta

Donald Trump has signed a “phase one” trade deal with China at the White House as part of an apparent easing of tensions between Washington and Beijing after the two exchanged retaliatory tariffs last year.

The president signed the agreement with China’s Vice Premier Liu He during a ceremony on Wednesday, describing it as a “landmark” deal that would benefit American farmers.

The phase one deal comes as Mr Trump’s administration has reportedly agreed to suspend new tariffs against Beijing in exchange for China purchasing $200bn (£153.5bn) worth of goods and services from the country over the next two years.

Beijing has meanwhile agreed to increase its purchasing of soybeans from US farmers after the industry was severely hampered by the trade dispute.

Mr Trump described China’s intellectual property theft and trade issues with Beijing on Wednesday as “huge problems” that undermined the US, its economy and America’s agriculture industry.

"Now our efforts have yielded a transformative deal", the president said. "The agreement we signed today includes groundbreaking provisions of profound importance to the United States: protecting intellectual property."

He also said the "guarded" deal has been subject to unfair criticism from Democrats, who he claimed were conducting a "hoax" of an impeachment process and were unaware of the specifics of the agreement his administration made with Beijing.

The agreement was celebrated by Republicans like Deb Fischer, a Nebraska senator who said the deal was “positive news” for her state’s farmers and ranchers.

Still, the deal has been subject to widespread criticism from analysts who say it does little to curtail China’s subsidies to its own manufacturers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that “China is the big winner” in the phase one agreement, according to a statement his presidential campaign released on Wednesday.

“True to form, Trump is getting precious little in return for the significant pain and uncertainty he has imposed on our economy, farmers, and workers”, the 2020 hopeful told Bloomberg News in the statement.

“It’s no wonder Trump doesn’t want the American people to see the text of the deal until after it’s signed”, he added. “No one should be fooled by Trump’s empty promises to deliver a meaningful 'phase two' deal."​

Mr Trump said he looked forward to working on phase two of the deal, saying “it’s going to lead to an even greater world peace”.

The president also said he expected the second phase of the agreement to complete US-China trade negotiations, and said it could lead to an “unprecedented” future relationship between both countries.

Mr He then read a letter from Chinese President Xi JinPing, in which he described the phase one deal as “good for China, good for the US and good for the world”.

“In the next step, the two sides need to implement the agreement in real earnest”, the vice premier said while reading the Chinese president’s letter. “To maintain healthy and steady growth of China-US relations … requires effort from both sides.”

He added: “In that spirit, I hope the US side will treat fairly Chinese companies … China is prepared to work with the US in that direction and I will stay in close touch with you personally.”

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