China, US ink deals worth more than $340b

Business leaders shake hands as US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend their signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Nov 9, 2017.
Business leaders shake hands as US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend their signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Nov 9, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese and American firms inked a slew of energy, industrial and financial pacts worth more than US$250 billion (S$340 billion) yesterday in what could be one of the biggest economic agreements in recent years.

Following their bilateral meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his United States counterpart Donald Trump witnessed the signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. In total, 15 documents were agreed on trade deals involving shale gas, liquefied natural gas, industrial cooperation, vehicles and aircraft engines.

As part of the US trade mission travelling with Mr Trump to Beijing, Boeing signed US$37 billion in commercial deals, reported Chinese state media.

General Electric inked three aviation and engine deals with Chinese partners totalling US$3.5 billion and a framework deal with China Datang Group to supply it with gas turbines and other components worth about US$1 billion, said Reuters.

Mr Trump described the deals as "tremendous, incredible job-producing agreements", which will give both sides a "very, very good start" in solving the problem of the "massive trade distortions" between the countries.

The US has a huge trade deficit with China, which stood at US$347 billion at the end of last year. Mr Trump had told White House officials last week: "We have trade deficits with China that are through the roof. They're so big and so bad it's embarrassing saying what the number is."

At the signing ceremony yesterday, Mr Trump said he will not blame China, but past US administrationsfor the out-of-control trade deficit. He vowed to "make it fair to both sides".

In a joint press conference held afterwards, Mr Xi said the world's top two economies need to "further expand trade and investment cooperation, streng-then macroeconomic policy coordination and pursue healthy stable and dynamically balanced economic and trade relations".

He pledged to have continued in-depth discussions on market openness, further lifting export restrictions, and improving the investment environment.

According to its own timetable and road map of opening up, China had announced a number of areas to promote market access, he said.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang elaborated on this on the ministry's website yesterday. "China will substantially relax its market access to the financial industry, including the banking industry, the securities fund industry and the insurance industry, and gradually lower the import tariffs on cars."

Mr Trump told reporters he had discussed the issue of China's market restrictions and technology transfer requirements, which prevented American companies from competing fairly within China.

The US is committed to protecting the intellectual property of its firms and providing a level playing field for them, he added.

Analysts say while the deals may reduce the size of the imbalance, they are unable to change the fundamental structure of trade between the countries.

"The huge bilateral imbalance in part reflects each of the countries' own structural imbalances. In China's case, while the trade surplus has been rising, its relative size to GDP (gross domestic product) is declining. Structural adjustment has already started in various sectors but will be a long process," said trade economist Sarah Tong of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.

"On the part of the US, a more open attitude towards high-tech export to China and investment from China would be more effective in addressing issues of trade imbalances."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'China, US ink deals worth more than $340b'. Print Edition | Subscribe