China exempts more tariffs on US goods before signing trade deal

Both countries are in close contact on signing of deal, after which specific details will be announced, China says.

    The US and China agreed to sign the first phase of a trade deal just days before December 15, when the US was due to implement further tariffs on Chinese imports [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]
    The US and China agreed to sign the first phase of a trade deal just days before December 15, when the US was due to implement further tariffs on Chinese imports [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

    China has unveiled a new list of tariff exemptions for imports from the United States, days after the world's two largest economies announced a Phase 1 trade deal.

    The tariff waivers announced on Thursday will be effective December 26 and will apply to six items, most of them chemical products such as lubricants and plastics, the Ministry of Finance said.

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    The exemption will be for one year and will end on December 25, 2020, the ministry said but did not provide the value of the imported goods excluded from duties.

    Duties already imposed on US products will not be refunded, the ministry added.

    China waived import tariffs for some soybeans and pork shipments from the US on December 6, before the two sides reached a Phase 1 trade deal to cancel tariffs that had been planned to take effect on December 15.

    China said it will continue to work on the product exemptions and release the second batch of waivers at an appropriate time.

    Meanwhile, both countries are in close communication over the signing of their Phase 1 trade deal, China's commerce ministry said, which will see lower US tariffs on Chinese goods and higher purchases of US farm, energy and manufactured goods.

    Both the Chinese and US trade teams are in close contact, Gao Feng, a spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, told reporters at a regular news briefing on Thursday, adding there is no specific information on the deal to disclose currently.

    "After the official signing of the deal, the content of the agreement will be made public," Gao said.

    The Phase 1 deal was announced last week after more than two years of on-and-off trade talks, although neither side has released many specific details of the agreement.

    US officials say China agreed to increase purchases of US products and services by at least $200bn over the next two years.

    According to Washington, that would include additional purchases of US farm products of $32bn over two years. That would average an annual total of about $40bn, compared with a baseline of $24bn in 2017 before the trade war started.

    Chinese officials have so far not publicly confirmed much of Washington's version - especially on goods purchase commitments. But China said on Friday when the deal was announced that it will import more US wheat, rice, corn, energy, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

    The US-China trade war has been a significant headache for global policymakers as it slowed economic growth worldwide and chilled business investment and confidence.

    US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week acknowledged that there is still hard work ahead in the next phase of negotiations. He gave no specific timeline but said US President Donald Trump did not want to wait until after the 2020 presidential election to wrap up a more comprehensive agreement.

    Washington said that the Phase 1 deal includes stronger Chinese legal protections for patents, trademarks, copyrights, including improved criminal and civil procedures to combat online infringement, pirated and counterfeit goods.

    The two countries have reached a consensus over the protection of trade secrets, guarding intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical products, and cracking down on counterfeits and pirated goods on e-commerce platforms, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said on Friday.

    China will step up protection of intellectual property but at its own pace, Wang said.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency