China’s Commerce Ministry said on Thursday that an agreement has been reached with the United States to proportionally cancel existing tariffs between the two countries in phases.
According to the ministry’s spokesman Gao Feng, the amount of tariff relief that will come in the first phase will depend on the content of that agreement. The first phase of the trade deal is expected to be signed in the coming weeks. A comprehensive trade agreement can only be signed under a condition that all tariffs are removed “simultaneously and proportionally,” he stressed.
The announcement comes as US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to meet in the near future to discuss the long-awaited interim trade deal. A senior Trump administration official told Reuters on Wednesday that the deal could be delayed until December as discussions continue over terms and venue.
Dozens of venues have been suggested for the meeting, which had originally been scheduled to take place on the sidelines of a now-canceled mid-November summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Chile. According to the official, London is among possible locations. The two leaders could meet after a NATO summit that Trump is due to attend from December 3-4, the official said. “It’s under consideration but nothing decided,” said the US official.
The trade row between the world’s two biggest economies has been going on for over a year, resulting in multiple rounds of tit-for-tat tariffs and restrictions. An interim US-China deal is widely expected to include Washington’s pledge to scrap tariffs scheduled for December 15 on about $156 billion worth of Chinese imports, including cell phones, laptop computers and toys.
Washington and Beijing have been exchanging tariff hikes on billions of dollars’ worth of each other’s goods. In 2018, the Trump administration began imposing tariffs and other trade barriers on China to force Beijing to make changes to what it called “unfair trade practices.”
The latest escalation took place in August, when the US began gradual imposition of tariffs on some $300 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated with levies targeting around $30 billion-worth of US imports, mostly affecting products that are sensitive for the US agricultural sector.
In September, the US temporarily exempted some 400 types of Chinese products. The list included coffee filters, patio torches and skateboards. All the products were part of the $250 billion worth of Chinese goods that the Trump administration targeted last year. The US exemption followed the decision by China’s Ministry of Finance to exempt 16 US product lines from Chinese tariffs.
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