Washington / Beijing (dpa) - Almost two years after the start of the trade war between the USA and China, the two countries want to seal a first trade agreement on Wednesday.
Although this is only a partial agreement, it probably corresponds to a ceasefire in the trade conflict between the two largest economies: Both sides make concessions and do not want to impose any new punitive duties until further notice.
However, the additional import fees imposed since 2018 will initially remain essentially the same. From the point of view of the German economy, there is still a long way to go before "tangible relaxation in world trade".
The partial agreement should be signed at the White House in Washington on Wednesday. Among other things, US President Donald Trump and China's chief negotiator and Vice Premier Liu He should attend the ceremony. Trump's government sees the contract as the first of several phases of a comprehensive trade agreement. The trade war had recently weighed on the global economy and slowed economic growth in the two countries.
The text of the trade agreement has not yet been published. According to the US, China is committed to significantly increasing its imports from the United States. The treaty is also designed to solve intellectual property protection and technology transfer issues imposed by China. US financial service providers should also have better access to the Chinese market.
In return, the US already waived the threat of new punitive tariffs on consumer goods such as laptops and smartphones worth $ 150 billion in December. Washington also dismissed the accusation that China was manipulating its currency to gain competitive advantage. Other controversial issues will then be resolved in a second phase of the trade agreement.
Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow spoke of an “important agreement” that would boost the economy. "There has never been anything like this in history," he told CNBC.
With the agreement, China is committed to increasing its imports from the U.S. by $ 200 billion within two years. As a base, the year 2017 was agreed when China imported US $ 190 billion worth of goods and services. An average increase of $ 100 billion a year would be a significant increase. Imports should continue to increase even after 2021, "in order to significantly balance the trade relationship," according to the US government. Trump originally started the trade conflict because China exports much more to the US than vice versa.
Agricultural products are said to account for at least $ 40 billion of additional imports. That would benefit US farmers - an important group for Trump with a view to the November election. If Beijing fails to meet its import commitments, Trump could impose new punitive tariffs. "The president has the option to impose additional tariffs if the agreement is not implemented," said Mnuchin CNBC. Existing punitive tariffs would only be lifted if a further agreement was concluded. This is "a great incentive for China to return to the negotiating table".
The punitive tariffs of 25 percent imposed by the Trump administration on goods worth around $ 250 billion since 2018 should initially remain. On the other hand, further tariffs of 15 percent on Chinese goods worth $ 120 billion are to be halved. Trump sees the punitive tariffs as trump cards for the negotiations for an agreement for the second phase.
Trump had said until September that he either wanted a “big deal” or no agreement at all. China is suffering from punitive tariffs and urgently wants an agreement, was Trump's mantra. However, Beijing did not bow to US pressure, and at the same time warning signals increased that the US economy was also suffering. Trump then started promoting a multi-step deal.
German exporters welcomed the partial agreement, which would lead to a relaxation from which German companies would also benefit. "However, it remains questionable whether we will now experience a change of course in US policy from US President Trump," said the president of the BGA foreign trade association, Holger Bingmann. Rather, it is to be feared that it is only a matter of giving in temporarily before the upcoming presidential election in the USA.
From the point of view of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), the partial deal "prevents a further global escalation in tariffs for the time being". Europe should strengthen its "strained trade relations" again on an equal footing with both partners. "Global rules are the basic structure of world trade," said CEO Martin Wansleben.
The European Chamber of Commerce in China is concerned about the potential impact of the deal. The Europeans rejected the "shopping list" of the USA, according to which China should now buy goods in the USA, said Chamber President Jörg Wuttke in Beijing. "What we don't like, of course, is the fact that it's controlled trading." The United States is now telling China which products to buy, in what quantities, which excludes others. Details are not yet available, but it must be checked whether the trade agreement complies with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).