China’s economy czar will visit Washington next week for the signing of an interim trade deal, the government said Thursday.
Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing’s chief envoy in talks with Washington over their tariff war, had been expected to attend the signing but the Commerce Ministry’s statement was the first official confirmation.
The signing will cap a nearly two-year spat that threatened to throttle the global economy as the two countries exchanged tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of two-way trade.
Washington postponed planned tariff increases following the announcement of the “Phase 1” deal in October.
Liu will lead a delegation to Washington from Monday through Wednesday, said ministry spokesman Gao Feng.
Under the “Phase 1” deal, Beijing agreed to buy more American farm goods and Washington's chief negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, said it would make changes to respond to complaints about its industrial policies.
Chinese officials have yet to confirm any regulatory changes or the size of purchases of American soybeans and other exports.
Both sides have soothed financial market jitters by announcing conciliatory steps including postponing planned tariff hikes.
Beijing also has resumed purchases of soybeans, the biggest American export to China, and pork.
US President Donald Trump announced last week that the two countries would sign the mini agreement –– the first part of a wider pact between the two –– on January 15, but Beijing had yet to confirm the trip.
"Both parties are in close communication regarding the detailed arrangement of the signing," Gao said, without providing more details.
Long-term decoupling of trade
US and Chinese officials have said the agreement includes protections for intellectual property, food and farm goods, financial services and foreign exchange, and a provision for dispute resolution.
Trump also cancelled plans to impose tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese merchandise in mid-December –– including hot consumer items such as mobile phones –– but punishing tariffs remain on about $250 billion-worth of goods, including machinery and many electronic items.
Lighthizer has said China committed to a minimum of $200 billion in increased purchases over the next two years from US manufacturers, farmers, energy producers and service providers.
But Gao refused to confirm the figure at Thursday's news conference.
Trump said last week that he would travel to Beijing for negotiations on the next part of the wider deal "at a later date", but Gao said he had "no further information on phase two" of the negotiations.
Observers say the trade war, which has also had ramifications for other economies globally, may have ushered in a long-term de-coupling of trade relations between the two economic powerhouses.
The truce also partially removes a thorn in the side of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has to deal with a slowing economy and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.