WASHINGTON/BEIJING: China and the US have averted a trade war by reaching an agreement today under which Beijing has agreed to "significantly increase" its purchases of American goods and services to reduce USD 375 billion trade deficit with Washington.
After lengthy second round of talks in Washington, the two sides issued a joint statement early today vowing not to launch a trade war against each other.
"There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the US trade deficit in goods with China," the joint statement said.
"To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services," it added.
This will help support growth and employment in the United States.
US President Donald Trump has threatened punitive measures against Chinese goods if Beijing does not cut down the trade deficit by USD 100 billion in a month and USD 200 billion by 2020.
US says it has USD 375 billion trade deficit in USD 636 billion total trade last year. China says the trade deficit is around USD 200 billion.
China too threatened a tit-for-tat retaliation but blinked in the end with a categorical undertaking to import more goods from US.
The two sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports. The United States will send a team to China to work out the details, said the joint statement at the conclusion of the trade delegation level talks between the two countries.
The United States delegation included Secretary of the Treasury Steven T Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, and United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer. The Chinese delegation was led by Vice Premier Liu He, the Special Envoy of President Xi Jinping.
The two sides also discussed expanding trade in manufactured goods and services. There was consensus on the need to create favourable conditions to increase trade in these areas.
The two nations attach great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights and agreed to strengthen cooperation. China will advance relevant amendments to its laws and regulations in this area, including the Patent Law, the joint statement said.
The two trade delegations also agreed to encourage two-way investment and to strive to create a fair, level playing field for competition.
"Both sides agreed to continue to engage at high levels on these issues and to seek to resolve their economic and trade concerns in a proactive manner," the statement said.
Liu told state-run China Daily in an interview that the trade talks are "quite successful, very meaningful and very fruitful".
Asked about what will be followed up in the coming months, Liu said that the two sides will see where "we have reached the consensus", and that they have already established some working groups, including the agricultural group, for consultations on concrete areas.
"Maybe some ministers from the US government will lead the groups to Beijing and will meet our colleagues to have deeper discussions with us and try to make concrete deals," he said.
The agreement came after reports that China has agreed to cut the deficit by USD 200 billion. A draft framework of US demands include China to cut the trade deficit by at least USD 200 billion by the end of 2020.
Washington also demanded Beijing halt subsidies for industries under the "Made in China 2025" plan, and that China should not resort to retaliatory measures against the US.
The trade spat between the top two economies of the world began last month with Trump imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into US.
China retaliated by imposing additional tariffs worth about USD three billion on 128 US products. Trump, while demanding China to reduce the USD 375 billion by USD 100 billion retaliated with USD 50 billion tariffs on Chinese products.
In retaliation, China announced plans to impose new tariffs of 25 per cent worth USD 50 billion on 106 American products including items like soybeans which could hurt American farmers.
The two countries have not yet implemented their tariff increases.
Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic party criticised the Trump Administration of having failed to make much progress in trade disputes with China.
"The key to a strong agreement is protecting our intellectual property here in America and stopping the Chinese from keeping out our best goods until we hand over our trade secrets and know how in such things as required joint ventures. The joint statement has nothing specific on those fronts and no amount of immediate and short-term purchases of American goods will make up for that," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
"Furthermore, there is no mention of ZTE. If the administration capitulates on ZTE and allows it to continue to exist, even if they are fined - they've been fined once already - that will signal to President Xi that we are weak negotiators," Schumer alleged.
Last month, the US Commerce Department moved to block the ZTE Corp., a major supplier of telecoms networks and smartphones based in China, from importing American components for seven years, accusing it of misleading American regulators after the company settled charges of violating sanctions against North Korea and Iran.
In a surprising overture to China, President Trump had said he would help the Chinese telecommunications company get "back into business".