China says in touch with US on signing of Phase 1 trade deal

Both the Chinese and US trade teams are in close communication, Mr Gao Feng, a spokesman at the Chinese Commerce Ministry, told reporters. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China and the United States are in touch over the signing of their Phase 1 trade deal, China's commerce ministry said, which will see lower US tariffs on Chinese goods and higher Chinese purchases of US farm, energy and manufactured goods.

The Phase 1 deal was announced last week after more than two years of on-and-off trade talks, although neither side has released many specific details of the agreement.

Both the Chinese and US trade teams are in close communication, Mr Gao Feng, a spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, told reporters at a regular briefing on Thursday (Dec 19), adding there is no specific information on the deal to disclose currently.

"After the official signing of the deal, the content of the agreement will be made public," Mr Gao said.

US officials say China agreed to increase purchases of US products and services by at least US$200 billion (S$271 billion) over the next two years.

According to Washington, that would include additional purchases of US farm products of US$32 billion over two years.

That would average an annual total of about US$40 billion, compared to a baseline of US$24 billion in 2017 before the trade war started.

Chinese officials have so far not publicly confirmed much of Washington's version - especially on goods purchase commitments.

But China said last Friday when the deal was announced that it will import more US wheat, rice, corn, energy, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Earlier on Thursday, China unveiled a new list of tariff exemptions for US imports, mostly chemical products, days after the world's two largest economies announced the Phase 1 deal.

China said the second part of the waiver list will be released at an appropriate time.

Washington said the deal also includes stronger Chinese legal protections for patents, trademarks, copyrights, including improved criminal and civil procedures to combat online infringement, pirated and counterfeit goods.

The two countries have reached a consensus over the protection of trade secrets, guarding intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical products, and cracking down on counterfeits and pirated goods on e-commerce platforms, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said on Friday.

China will step up protection of intellectual property but at its own pace, Mr Wang said.

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