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China, US inch toward phase one deal

(Global Times)    07:47, December 26, 2019

Signs suggest steadiness, but much work needs to be done: experts

Farm owner Bill Pellett examines havested corn on a combine harvester in a field of his family farm in Atlantic, a small city in the Midwestern state of Iowa, the United States, Oct. 14, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

China and the US appear to be marching toward the signing of the phase one trade agreement, as both Beijing and Washington on Wednesday continued to inject positive momentum into efforts to finalize the deal that has been cheered by global financial markets.

However, much work remains to be done with regard to the details of the agreement at such a critical and delicate stage, where the US must also follow up its commitment with concrete actions and shift its hostile approach toward China, Chinese experts noted.

"Both sides have maintained close communication over the specific arrangements of the signing of the agreement and other remaining works," Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a routine press briefing on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, China's General Administration of Customs signaled that a new batch of US products could soon be exempted from Chinese tariffs imposed on a total of $60 billion worth of US goods in response to US' unilateral duties.

"The Tariff Commission of the State Council will continue to conduct exclusion processes for US products from additional tariffs and will subsequently release exclusion lists," the GAC said in a statement.

China has already released two lists of US products, including agricultural goods and chemicals, that will be exempted from tariffs. One was released on December 19 and the other one was issued on September 11, before the two sides agreed on the text of the phase one deal.

The moves are mainly part of China's long-stated efforts to expand imports from not just the US but also from other countries rather than a part of the phase one agreement, whose content has not yet been released, Chinese experts said.

Positive signs

Tariff reductions could be a positive signal as it paves way for increasing purchases of relevant US products, they noted.

"It is safe to say that both sides are actively pushing forward the singing of the phase one agreement," Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Ministry of Commerce's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that there are positive signals from both sides.

US officials appear more eager for a deal. On Tuesday US time, US President Donald Trump stated that "the deal is done" and there will be a subsequent signing ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to Reuters.

Asked about Trump's comment, Geng only said that the two sides are still working on the specific arrangement.

Still, "both sides' attitudes toward the phase one agreement is almost equally positive," Li Yong, deputy chair of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Wednesday, "I think there is a greater possibility a deal will be signed soon."

More work

Despite the positive signals, more work still needs to be done before the signing of the phase one agreement, as both sides have entered into a critical but delicate stage in knocking down final details, experts said.

Apart from the time, location and format of the signing of the trade deal, Chinese and US officials were still conducting legal and translation reviews on the content of the trade agreement, Gao Feng, a spokesperson for the Chinese Commerce Ministry, said last week.

"There are still some discrepancies in information from the two sides. China has been generally reserved, while the US has been more aggressive in releasing information," Li said.

Some US officials have reportedly said that China would buy as much as $200 billion worth of US goods. But Chinese officials have not disclosed the amount. Gao said that the text of the deal will only be released after it was signed.

"Until the agreement is ratified, there are still many possibilities and much work to do," Mei said, "We cannot lower our guards down just yet."

Even as trade officials stress the two countries are working toward the agreement, which has been widely viewed as a positive move not only for the Chinese and US economies, but also the global economy, certain people in the US are continuing on the hostile, zero-sum approach toward China, experts noted.

The recently adopted US National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 included items related to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which Chinese officials call interference into Chinese internal affairs.

The US has also moved to bar the purchase of telecommunication equipment from Chinese suppliers such as Huawei Technologies Co on top of a global crackdown campaign against the firm.

"If the US does not change its extreme mentality regarding China, the overall direction of the China-US trade relationship will not be so optimistic even after the phase one deal [is signed]," Li said, "China and the US has an opportunity to pursue a constructive relationship that will benefit the world, however this will depend on the US." 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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