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Trump Signs Phase One of China Trade Deal, Plans to Visit Beijing in ‘Not Too Distant Future’

The trade conflict between the US and China began in 2018 after Washington slapped tariffs on $25 billion worth of Chinese goods, and has since escalated to include hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of products from both countries. The two sides began talks to try to end the dispute in mid-2019.

US President Donald Trump has announced plans to visit China soon.

“I want to thank President Xi [Jinping], who is watching as we speak, and I’ll be going over to China in the not to distant future to reciprocate, but I want to thank President Xi, a very, very good friend of mine,” Trump said, speaking Wednesday while  presiding over the signing of the so-called ‘Phase One’ trade deal with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

“This is a very important and remarkable occasion,” Trump said of the deal, speaking before gathered Chinese trade negotiators and senior US officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Touting the trade deal as “very large and comprehensive,” Trump suggested that its signing was a “momentous step, one that’s never [been] taken before with China,” and which will ensure “fair and reciprocal trade” between the two countries.

“Together, we are righting the wrongs of the past,” he stressed, in reference to his previously stated sentiments about Beijing’s alleged ‘unfair trade practices’ under previous administrations.

Chinese workers making Santa Claus dolls at a toy factory in Ganyu district in Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu province

© AFP 2019 / STRChinese workers making Santa Claus dolls at a toy factory in Ganyu district in Lianyungang, east China’s Jiangsu province

Vice Premier Liu said the two countries would continue to strive for closer cooperation to achieve a ‘win-win’ trade relationship, in spite of outstanding differences in their economic and political models.

The Phase One Trade deal is seen as a much-hoped for first step in ending the trade war between the two economic superpowers, which has led to billions of dollars in economic losses by both countries, and caused a spike in concerns about slowed global growth.

The complete details of the 86-page document has yet to be released to media, but it is known that the deal commits China to purchasing an additional $200 billion in US farm products, manufactured goods, energy and services over the next two years to help ease Washington’s trade deficit.

In his remarks Wednesday, Trump confirmed that the US would be keeping tariffs against China in place until Phase Two was agreed.

“We are leaving tariffs on…but I will agree to take those tariffs off if we are able to do Phase Two,” Trump said.

Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin promised that the upcoming ‘Phase Two’ agreement would see the easing of tariffs on goods purchased from China. Trump said Wednesday that he does not expect there to be a ‘Phase Three’.