Top US Trade Official Praises Deal with China


    16 December, 2019

    President Donald Trump's top trade negotiator has praised what is being called "phase one" of a trade deal between the United States and China. However, Chinese officials remain guarded in their reaction before the signing of any agreement.

    The new agreement is expected to nearly double U.S. exports to China over the next two years.

    File - US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) greet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (C) as he arrives for trade talks at the Office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, October 10, 2019.
    File - US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) greet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (C) as he arrives for trade talks at the Office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, October 10, 2019.

    U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke about the trade deal on Sunday. He told CBS television that the deal was "totally done," although small changes to the wording are possible.

    The deal was announced on Friday after more than two and a half years of negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials.

    China agreed to increase purchases of U.S. products by about $200 billion over the next two years. China is expected to buy more agricultural and manufactured goods and energy products from American companies.

    In addition, China has agreed to take steps to improve protections on property rights. It promised to better protect U.S. intellectual property and to limit pressure on American companies to transfer technology. Other steps include opening the Chinese market to U.S. financial businesses and a promise not to manipulate the value of China's money.

    In return, the U.S. government has promised to reduce some taxes on Chinese imports.

    Lighthizer said the date for signing the agreement has yet to be set.

    China to increase imports from U.S.

    Under the agreement, China is expected to import $40 to $50 billion worth of U.S. farm products in each of the next two years. That is an increase over the $24 billion that China imported in 2017, the last year before the U.S.-China trade dispute.

    The top agricultural import for China has been soybeans, which reached $12 billion in 2017. China also said it would buy more grain from U.S. farmers.

    Several Chinese officials told the Reuters news agency that the wording of the agreement remained a sensitive issue. In fact, one person, who Reuters did not identify, said the deal, "is a phased achievement, and does not mean that the trade dispute is settled once and for all."

    Shi Yinhong is an adviser to the State Council of China and a professor at Renmin University in Beijing. Shi said China faces pressure to carry out phase one of the trade deal. He suggested that China might have to buy more soybeans than it needs to meet the terms of the agreement. He said while the Americans are happy, "we did not cheer" the new agreement.

    U.S. to reduce import taxes

    The deal suspends planned U.S. import taxes on $160 billion of Chinese goods. Those tariffs were to take effect on December 15. U.S. negotiators also agreed to cut in half tariffs on $120 billion in Chinese products, including Bluetooth headphones, smart speakers and televisions. The new tax rate is 7.5 percent.

    The U.S. Trade Representative and Department of the Treasury said any reports that U.S. negotiators offered to cut in half tariffs on all $360 billion in goods were "false."

    The deal keeps in place a 25 percent tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese products exported to the United States.

    Lighthizer said Chinese officials would decide the success of the deal. "Whether this whole agreement works is going to be determined by who's making the decisions in China," he said.

    "If the hard-liners are making the decisions we're going to get one outcome, if the reformers are making the decisions – which is what we hope – then we're going to get another outcome," Lighthizer added.

    I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.

    David Lawder reported this story for Reuters. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    phase – n. a step in a process

    transfer – v. to cause something to be moved from one place to another

    intellectual property –n. property such as inventions, research and media that carry rights for the owner to use, sell or gain from the property

    manipulate – v. to control in a skillful way that often is unfair and designed to help one side over the other

    achievement – n. something that is done with great effort

    determine – v. to make a choice