No consensus: US, China differ on phase one trade deal review

Six-month review of phase one US-China trade deal had been planned for August 15 but was postponed as tensions mount.

China trade
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 [File: China Daily via Reuters]

The administration of United States President Donald Trump has declined to acknowledge any plans to meet with China over their phase one trade deal after the commerce ministry in Beijing said bilateral talks would be held “in the coming days” to evaluate the agreement’s progress.

Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng made the comments about the forthcoming discussions at a weekly briefing held online on Thursday, but did not elaborate.

The videoconference meeting, originally envisioned for August 15 – marking six months after the trade deal’s launch – had been delayed, and Trump said it was his decision.

Two US sources familiar with the plans told the Reuters news agency on Thursday no new meeting date has been scheduled.

The US Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) office and US Treasury did not respond to queries by Reuters 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 one trade deal and USTR Robert Lighthizer was pleased with the progress so far.

Behind the curve

China’s purchases of US goods are running well behind the pace needed to meet a first-year increase of $77bn specified in the deal, according to official data. But China has increased the pace of farm product purchases in recent weeks.

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 attempting to force the sale of Chinese-owned video-sharing platform TikTok.

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

“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,” Trump said.

Source: Reuters