China's Liu to sign phase one US trade deal next week: Ministry

This is China's first confirmation that it will sign the first phase of the trade deal in Washington, DC.

    China's Vice Premier Liu He earlier travelled to Washington, DC, in October, when he and US President Donald Trump discussed trade issues but did not sign an agreement [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]
    China's Vice Premier Liu He earlier travelled to Washington, DC, in October, when he and US President Donald Trump discussed trade issues but did not sign an agreement [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

    China's Vice Premier Liu He, the head of the country's negotiating team in trade talks with the United States, will sign a "phase one" deal in Washington, DC, next week, the commerce ministry said on Thursday.

    Liu will visit the US capital from January 13 to 15, said Gao Feng, a spokesman at the commerce ministry.

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    Negotiating teams from both sides remain in close communication on the particular arrangements of the signing, Gao told reporters at a regular briefing.

    This is the first Chinese confirmation that the deal would be signed after US President Donald Trump said on December 31 that the phase one deal with China would be signed on January 15 at the White House.

    Liu will travel with the titles of Politburo member, vice premier and top trade negotiator, according to Gao. There was no mention of whether he will be designated a special envoy for President Xi Jinping, a title he held on some previous trips to Washington, DC.

    Trump had said he would sign the deal with "high-level representatives of China", and that he would later travel to Beijing to begin talks on the next phase.

    The phase one deal reached last month is expected to cut tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of US farm, energy and manufactured goods while addressing some disputes over intellectual property.

    But no version of the text has been made public, and Chinese officials have yet to publicly commit to key points such as increasing imports of US goods and services by $200bn over two years.

    US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said he expects the 86-page document of the deal will be publicly released after it is signed.

    The US launched a trade war against Beijing a year and a half ago over allegations of unfair trade practices, such as theft of US intellectual property and subsidies that unfairly benefit Chinese state-owned companies.

    When asked if China would have to reduce grain imports from other countries to meet its US commitments, Gao said China will continue to improve the administration of tariff quotas for wheat, corn and soybeans in accordance with World Trade Organization commitments, and will make full use of quotas according to market conditions.

    This is not inconsistent with expanding agricultural imports from the US, said Gao.

    SOURCE: News agencies