Trump delays tariff hikes on Chinese goods as part of ‘phase one deal’

US President Donald Trump announced a “very substantial phase one deal” on 11 October to solve the country’s long-running trade dispute with China.

As part of the deal, China would scale up its purchases of US farm goods over two years to an annual total of US$40-$50bn, and agree to certain intellectual property measures and concessions related to financial services and currency, Bloomberg reported. In exchange, the USA agreed to delay a 5% tariff hike that was due to take effect on 15 October which would have increased duties to 30% on US$250bn worth of Chinese goods.

China in recent weeks had already discussed buying more US products such as soyabeans, pork and wheat, Bloomberg said.

The deal was announced after a two-day meeting in Washington between US and Chinese officials, the first senior-level discussions since a previous agreement fell apart in May and tariffs were raised.

Importantly, Trump said the deal was the first phase of a broader agreement which the president indicated that he could sign at an upcoming November summit in Chile, Bloomberg reported.

However, a further 15% tariff on almost all US$160bn worth of remaining Chinese imports, including laptops, smartphones, footwear and clothing, is still set to be imposed on 15 December unless the agreement is finalised.

The two countries have been locked in a trade dispute since last year, with the USA accusing China of discriminatory policies relating to technology and intellectual property. Since then, the two countries have imposed billions of dollars worth of tariffs on each other’s goods.

The US soyabean industry has been particularly hit by the 15-month trade war, with the American Soybean Association (ASA) warning in May that US farmers could not withstand another year in which their most important foreign market continued to slip away and soyabean prices were 20-25% below pre-tariff levels.

Bloomberg said that while the limited agreement may resolve some short-term issues, several of the thorniest disputes remained outstanding including US accusations of intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer and complaints about Chinese industrial subsidies.