China and the United States have agreed on the text of a bilateral "phase one" trade deal that, among other things, will see the gradual winding down of mutual tariffs and expanded purchase of US agriculture goods by China, Beijing has announced.
"As the world's largest economies, China and the United States must deal with the economic and trade relations between the two countries with general interests as the starting point," Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen told an eleventh-hour news conference yesterday.
The nine-chapter agreement includes clauses on intellectual property, technology transfer, food and agricultural products, financial services, currency exchange and transparency, expanded trade, bilateral assessments and dispute settlement, said Mr Wang, who is also China's deputy international trade representative.
"The conclusion of the economic and trade agreement is beneficial to the fundamental interests of the Chinese and American peoples and the people of the world, while also having a positive effect on trade, investment, markets and other areas."
The agreement also spells out a phased removal of tit-for-tat tariffs that have been a drag both on bilateral trade and global growth, said Mr Wang.
"With the current downward pressure on the global economy, this agreement is conducive to enhancing global market confidence, stabilising market expectations, and creating a good environment for normal economic and trade and investment activities," he added.
China will "undoubtedly" also ramp up its purchase of American agricultural goods in the wake of the agreement, said Vice-Minister of Finance Liao Min, without committing Beijing to the US$50 billion (S$68 billion) figure that has made the news in recent days.
"The text of the first phase of the trade agreement is currently undergoing review, so the specific contents of the agreement will be released in the future," said Mr Liao.
Chinese officials framed the trade agreement as conducive to China's current stage of economic development, and in line with the growing expectations of its expanding middle class.
With a more wealthy middle class, more Chinese have greater expectations of diverse, affordable and convenient consumer products, and China looks forward to expanding its import of high-quality US goods and services in areas such as manufactured goods, food, medical care and finance, said Mr Ning Jizhe, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's state planner.
"Expanding China-US trade cooperation is in line with China's requirements for high-quality economic development," said Mr Ning.