US, China agree ‘phase one’ trade deal; Trump suspends October tariff hike

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He sitting across a desk from US Presdient Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Oct 11, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He (right) shakes hands with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (left) after a meeting at the Office of the USTR in Washington, DC, Oct 11, 2019. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States and China agreed on Friday (Oct 11) to the first phase of a deal to end a trade war, prompting US President Donald Trump to suspend a threatened tariff hike.

Officials, however, said the agreement had to be put on paper and more work was required to get it finalised.

The partial accord, covering agriculture, currency and some aspects of intellectual property protections, represented the biggest step toward resolution of a 15-month tariff war between the world's two largest economies that has hit financial markets and slowed global growth.

The announcement did not include many details, however, and Trump said it could take up to five weeks to get the deal written.

"We will not sign an agreement unless we get and can tell the president that this is on paper," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said as the two sides gathered with Trump at the White House.

With Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He sitting across a desk from him in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters that the two sides were very close to ending their trade dispute.

"There was a lot of friction between the United States and China, and now it's a love-fest. That's a good thing," he said.

Trump spoke after two days of high-level negotiations in Washington between Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and a delegation led by Liu on the Chinese side.

Mnuchin said that Trump had agreed not to proceed with a hike in tariffs to 30% from 25% on about US$250 billion (S$343 billion) in Chinese goods that was supposed to have gone into effect on Tuesday.

But Lighthizer said Trump had not made a decision about tariffs that were subject to go into effect in December.

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When asked about those tariffs, Trump said: "I think that we're going to have a deal that's a great deal that's beyond tariffs."

Trump had previously insisted he would not be satisfied with a partial deal to resolve his two-year effort to change China's trade, intellectual property and industrial policy practices, which he argues cost millions of US jobs.

US stocks ended more than 1% higher on Friday but well off the day's highs after the announcement, with the S&P 500 up 1.09% after rising as much as 1.7% earlier on hopes of a deal.


Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are both scheduled to attend a Nov 16 summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in Santiago, Chile.

Both sides have imposed duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods during their dispute, but there have been positive signs in recent days.

China's securities regulator on Friday unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time.

Increasing foreign access to the sector is among the US demands at the trade talks.

Beijing previously said it would further open up its financial sector on its own terms and at its own pace.

On Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture confirmed net sales of 142,172 tonnes of US pork to China in the week ended Oct 3, the largest weekly sale to the world's top pork market on record.

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