U.S.-China Reach Agreement on Trade Talks

May 21, 2018

The U.S. and China issued a joint statement Saturday at the conclusion of the talks between the Chinese delegation (headed by Vice Premier Liu He) and the U.S. side (headed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin). The official statement is short on specifics, but the tone is very positive and there is a heavy emphasis on the personal working relationship between Presidents Xi and Trump, as the key to the accord. Prior to the conclusion of the talks, the Chinese had made some significant concessions to make sure things worked out: they stopped their investigation of U.S. sorghum dumping (i.e., U.S. sorghum exports to China are resumed), and they approved the purchase of Toshiba's computer memory chip business by the U.S. "venture capital" firm, Bain Capital (co-founded by Mitt Romney).

"There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States' trade deficit in goods with China," the White House reported. China agreed to "significantly increase purchases" of U.S. goods and services, especially in agriculture and energy, although no specific numbers were announced for reducing the U.S. trade deficit with China. The White House also announced that a U.S. team will travel to China shortly to continue ironing out the details.

Liu He's comments to the media on May 19, as reported by Xinhua, were that "China and the U.S. have reached consensuses on economic and trade issues, pledging not to engage in a trade war and stop slapping tariffs against each other, which are the most remarkable fruits of the consultations." Liu further characterized the talks as "positive, pragmatic, constructive and productive, Liu explained that the most important reason for the achievements is the important consensus reached previously by Xi and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, and the fundamental cause is the needs of the two peoples and the whole world.... Liu said that it not only benefits the two nations, but also helps support the stability and prosperity of the global economy and trade."

While praising the results, Liu cautioned that, while the deal was a "necessity," at the same time "it must be realized that unfreezing the ice cannot be done in a day, solving the structural problems of the economic and trade relations between the two countries will take time." Liu also commented that "the two countries should properly handle their differences through dialogue and treat them calmly in the future."

Xinhua reported that the two countries also agreed to "strengthen their cooperation in mutual investment and intellectual property protection"—a major issue raised by the U.S. side.