U.S., China differ over plans for Phase 1 trade deal talks

The Trump administration on Thursday declined to acknowledge any plans to meet with China over the Phase 1 trade deal after the commerce ministry in Beijing said bilateral talks would be held “in the coming days” to evaluate the agreement’s progress.
August 21, 2020 | 16:22
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China's purchases of US goods under a phase one deal signed in January are running behind its commitments, following severe lockdowns in China to control the spread of the coronavirus (Photo: Reuters)

The U.S. and China have agreed to go back to the negotiating table in the coming days to review the progress of their “phase one” trade deal but did not elaborate, according to the Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng.

Both sides will hold the “discussion over the phone,” the ministry said. It comes after talks scheduled for last Saturday were postponed due to a scheduling conflict, according to Reuters.

They followed Tuesday’s remarks by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that no new high-level trade talks were scheduled, though both sides were in touch about implementing the Phase 1 deal.

The “phase one” trade deal, signed in January, paused a damaging trade war between the world’s two largest economies that involved retaliatory tariffs being slapped on billions of dollars worth of goods.

In the first six months of this year, China’s purchase of the agreed products totaled less than a quarter of the amount targeted for the whole of 2020. The review of the trade deal comes as ties between the U.S. and China have deteriorated in recent months. Their disagreements have moved beyond trade into areas such as the origin of the coronavirus, national security concerns around Chinese tech firms and Hong Kong’s autonomy, cited by CNBC.

The videoconference meeting, originally envisioned for the Aug. 15 six-month anniversary of the trade deal’s launch, had been delayed, and U.S. President Donald Trump said it was his decision.

Two U.S. sources familiar with the plans said on Thursday no new meeting date has been scheduled.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office and U.S. Treasury did not respond to queries about plans to review the trade deal, a regular six-month review by high-level officials called for in a chapter on enforcement.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow did not comment on possible talks with Chinese officials. But he said the Trump administration remains engaged with Beijing on the Phase 1 trade deal and USTR Robert Lighthizer was pleased with the progress so far, cited by Reuters.

Trump, who has frequently expressed anger at China over the coronavirus pandemic, said on Tuesday he had “postponed” talks with China because “I don’t want to deal with them now.”

As his re-election campaign ramps up, Trump has turned to tougher talk and actions against China, including sanctions over China’s Hong Kong security crackdown and the forced sale of Chinese-owned short video platform TikTok.

Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday his administration would offer companies tax credits to bring U.S. jobs back to America from China.

Trump said, “And if they don’t do it, we’ll put tariffs on those companies, and they’ll have to pay us a lot of money,” quoted by Fox News.

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