Although Covid-19 may have put once-flaring tensions over trade between Washington and Beijing on the back burner, the steps they had managed to agree upon are still being implemented, according to Chinese ambassador to the US.
As part of the first phase of the trade deal, China is still purchasing US agricultural goods and continuing to remove restrictions on foreign companies entering its financial market, Ambassador Cui Tiankai said, as cited by state-linked outlet Global Times.
“As far as I know, even for the last few weeks, when we are faced with this very serious, critical (coronavirus) situation, people are still working on the implementation of the phase one deal. Hopefully, we can still do it,” the diplomat said.
The two world’s biggest economies paused their long-running trade row in January, when Beijing was just starting to battle the virus and there were less than 300 cases worldwide – mostly registered in China, with just a few people infected in other Asian nations. The disease then spread rapidly, arriving in Europe and America, and was officially recognized as a pandemic. Now the US is the epicenter of the health crisis, where the coronavirus has infected 530,000 people and caused over 20,000 fatalities, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
“We also hope that the economic teams of the two countries can sit together or hold video conferences to assess the changing situation and coordinate our response,” the Chinese ambassador said, warning against “any escalation of tensions” in such “critical” times.
According to the terms of the accord, China was set to buy a total of $200 billion more in US goods over the next two years than it did in 2017. The purchases include agricultural products, manufactured goods, services, and energy products.
Despite the deal suspending the tariffs the two sides were threatening to hit one another with, it did not fully eliminate those previously imposed. Washington halved the 15-percent tariff it had imposed on a $120 billion list of Chinese goods, and left untouched 25-percent levies on $250 billion worth of imports from China.
At the end of January, before the coronavirus had not spread across the US and was expected mainly to disrupt the Chinese economy, not the American one, White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro said the US was not going to ease the tariffs and make any concessions to China.
“And the tariffs also ensure that we come back for phase two,” he said, referring to the second part of the trade deal with China, the talks on which were set to take place. However, those talks have apparently been postponed until better times.
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