Share
December 20, 2019 1:30 PM, EST

Trump Says ‘Formal Signing’ of China Trade Pact Is Being Arranged

Containership at Xiamen, ChinaContainership at Xiamen, China, by Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News

The U.S. and China are arranging the formal signing of the first phase of a broader trade deal between the world’s two biggest economies, President Donald Trump said after discussions between him and his counterpart, Xi Jinping.

“Had a very good talk with President Xi of China concerning our giant Trade Deal. China has already started large scale purchase of agricultural product & more. Formal signing being arranged,” Trump said in a tweet Dec. 20, adding they also discussed North Korea and Hong Kong. The call took place this morning, the White House said.

The phase one agreement, announced Dec. 13, saw Trump suspend plans for new import taxes on Chinese products and reduce some existing ones. It hinges on the Asian nation increasing purchases of American farm goods such as soybeans and pork, and making new commitments on intellectual property, forced technology transfer and currency.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the nation’s chief negotiator, said he expected the 86-page agreement to be signed by him and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in early January in Washington and released publicly then. Lawyers for both sides will review the accord before signature — a normal step in any trade negotiation — and Lighthizer expects it will come into effect 30 days after the signing.

Trump is due to travel to Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum meetings in Davos at the end of January. But Xi is not expected to be there, meaning the two leaders are unlikely to meet face-to-face until later in the year.

According to one person close to the talks, the two sides are now exchanging drafts of a Chinese translation of the agreement.

That can sometimes be a contentious process in any trade talks, but the person said no major sticking points had materialized so far, meaning the two sides were on track for a signing and the release of a public text in the first half of January.