China’s Vice Premier Liu to Sign US Trade Deal in Washington Next Week

January 9, 2020 Updated: January 9, 2020
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BEIJING—China’s Vice Premier Liu He, head of the country’s negotiation team in Sino–U.S. trade talks, will sign a “phase one” deal in Washington next week, the commerce ministry said on Jan. 9.

Liu will be in Washington from Jan. 13 to 15, said Gao Feng, spokesman at the commerce ministry.

Negotiating teams from both sides remain in close communication on the particular arrangements of the signing, Gao told reporters at a regular briefing.

President Donald Trump said on Dec. 31 that the agreement with China would be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House. Trump also said he would sign the deal with “high-level representatives of China” and that he would later travel to Beijing to begin talks on the next phase.

The Chinese delegation will include 10 officials, among them Zhong Shan, minister of commerce, Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, Liao Min, vice minister of finance, and Zheng Zeguang, vice minister of foreign affairs, as well as China‘s ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, according to a U.S. source familiar with the preparations.

The deal reached last month is expected to cut tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of U.S. farm, energy, and manufactured goods while addressing U.S. concerns over intellectual property theft.

Washington, Europe, Japan, and other trading partners have found that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. Washington is pressing China to roll back plans for a state-led creation of global competitors in robotics and other industries that its trading partners say violate its market-opening commitments.

The Trump administration says some tariffs must remain in place to ensure Beijing carries out any promises it makes.

But no version of the text has been made public, and Chinese officials have yet to publicly commit to key points, such as increasing imports of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over two years.

China will not increase its annual low-tariff import quotas for corn, wheat, and rice to accommodate stepped-up purchases of farm goods from the United States, senior agriculture official Han Jun said on Jan. 7, according to local media group Caixin.

The move could make it harder for Beijing to meet import commitments in a phase one trade deal. Trump said last month the agreement would likely double China‘s $24 billion in pre-trade-war purchases to $40 billion–$50 billion annually.

When asked if China would have to reduce grain imports from other countries in order to meet its U.S. commitments, Gao said that China will continue to improve the administration of tariff quotas for wheat, corn, and soybeans in accordance with World Trade Organization commitments, and will make full use of quotas according to market conditions.

This isn’t inconsistent with expanding agricultural imports from the United States, Gao said.

The United States began setting tariffs and other trade barriers against Beijing a year and a half ago over China’s unfair trade practices, such as theft of U.S. intellectual property and subsidies that unfairly benefit Chinese state-owned companies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.