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U.S., China to Discuss Phase One Trade Deal Later this Month

August 6, 2020

Lingling Wei and Bob Davis reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The U.S. and China have agreed to high-level talks on Aug. 15 to assess Beijing’s compliance with the bilateral trade agreement signed early this year, according to people briefed on the matter.

“The trade pact has emerged as one of the few remaining avenues for the two countries to engage on matters of mutual concernRelations have deteriorated in recent months, with the Trump administration hammering Beijing over the coronavirus outbreakHong Kong and the treatment of Uighurs in western China.

“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s point man on economic policies, will participate in the talks, likely via videoconference, the people said.”

The Journal article explained that,

The focus will be on the so-called phase-one deal, which includes China’s commitment to boost its U.S. imports by $200 billion over two years. So far, China has fallen well short of the pace needed to reach the target, even though it has increased purchases of American soybeans, pork, corn and other farm products in recent months.

“Speaking at Aspen Security Forum on Tuesday, China’s U.S. Ambassador Cui Tiankai said the coronavirus has impeded normal trade flows. He said the ‘two economic teams have been in contact with each other’ and that Beijing is doing its best to implement the trade agreement,” the Journal article said.

Bloomberg writer Jenny Leonard reported this week that, “Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are planning to assess the nations’ trade agreement this month against a backdrop of rising tensions between the countries, according to people briefed on the matter.

“The discussion on the so-called phase-one deal, led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, would take place on or around Aug. 15, six months after the agreement took effect, as directed in the text of the accord, the people said.”

The Bloomberg article noted that,

Beijing has fallen far behind its purchases commitments on agriculture and energy products. Still, Lighthizer said in June that the country has done ‘a pretty good job’ on structural changes and lauded ‘significant purchases over the course of the last many weeks.’

And Reuters writer David Lawder pointed out this week that, “Under the Phase 1 trade deal signed in January, China had pledged to boost purchases of U.S. goods by some $200 billion over 2017 levels, including agricultural and manufactured products, energy and services.

“But China, battered by the global coronavirus recession, is far behind the pace needed to meet its first-year goal of a $77 billion increase. Imports of farm goods have been lower than the 2017 level, far behind the 50% increase needed to meet the 2020 target of $36.5 billion.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported this week that, “China will boost wheat imports in the coming year to secure domestic food requirements and is likely to increase purchases from the U.S. to help meet commitments under the phase one trade deal.

“The world’s largest consumer and producer of wheat is set to buy 6 million tons in the 12 months starting June, up from just over 4 million tons in the previous year, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center, the government forecaster. That would be the highest since 2013-14.

“China to Import Most Wheat in Seven Years to Ensure Food Supply,” Bloomberg News (August 4, 2020).

China, also the top global soybean importer, is already buying hefty amounts of corn and cotton from the U.S. to fill domestic needs and try to satisfy pledges under the trade deal. In terms of wheat, the Asian country is boosting purchases from France and Lithuania, while Russia and Kazakhstan are willing to sell more, the center said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also estimates wheat imports at 6 million tons in the coming year.”

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News