China fails to meet US trade deal target in 2020 amid pandemic

China promised to buy an additional US$200 billion of US goods and services over the 2017 level by the end of 2021.
China promised to buy an additional US$200 billion of US goods and services over the 2017 level by the end of 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China failed to meet its 2020 trade deal targets with the United States in a year marked by pandemic-related disruptions and an increasingly tense relationship with the Trump administration.

By the end of December, China had purchased about 58.1 per cent of the US$172 billion (S$227.83 billion) worth of goods it pledged to buy last year under the phase one agreement with Washington, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the country's customs agency.

It bought 60.4 per cent of targeted manufactured products and 64.4 per cent of agricultural goods, but lagged behind on energy, importing just 39 per cent of the target.

It is no surprise that the annual target was not met, since the monthly data had shown that China was well behind on its purchase commitments all year.

The latest figures show that China sped up imports in December, especially of liquefied natural gas and vehicles, but that was not enough to meet its goals.

Under the agreement signed in January last year, China promised to buy an additional US$200 billion of US goods and services over the 2017 level by the end of 2021.

As the pact enters its second year, all eyes are on whether the new US administration under President Joe Biden will try to renegotiate the deal.

Mr Biden told the New York Times last month he would not make any immediate moves on tariffs on US$360 billion worth of Chinese goods imposed by former president Donald Trump.

Incoming officials have also that signalled the new administration would continue to take a hard-line approach toward China, with Dr Janet Yellen, Mr Biden's intended nominee for treasury secretary, vowing to fight "abusive" trade practices.

The trade deal was not a win for the US as Mr Trump had promised.

The US trade deficit with China grew to US$317 billion last year, fuelled by demand for medical goods and work-from-home devices, while research by some economists showed US business and consumers paid for the higher tariffs rather than Chinese companies.