US strikes trade deal with China as relations hit ‘new high’
Trump has frequently lashed China , describing Beijing as an ‘enemy’
China will allow imports of US beef, while the US will allow the import of cooked poultry from China
Relations between the world’s two largest economies have hit “a new high”, Donald Trump’s commerce secretary has claimed, announcing a “herculean” trade deal between Washington and Beijing in the latest sign of warming ties.
Trump frequently lashed out at China on the campaign trail, describing Beijing as an “enemy” of the United States.
But ties have warmed following the Mar-a-Lago summit between Trump and President Xi Jinping in April, with the Republican president this week describing his Communist party counterpart as “a great guy”.
On Thursday evening the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced the latest phase of that tentative rapprochement, unveiling a 10-part trade agreement with China that he hailed as “very big news”.
“US-China relationships are now hitting a new high, especially in trade,” Ross told reporters.
“This was pretty much a herculean accomplishment to get this done,” he added. “This is more than has been done in the whole history of US-China relations on trade.”
In a statement the department of commerce said top American and Chinese officials, including the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and China’s vice-premier Wang Yang, had “negotiated intensively to make progress on key issues”.
Under the agreement China will allow imports of US beef, while the US will allow the import of cooked poultry from China. Beijing will also permit foreign financial services companies to provide credit-rating services in China.
The department of commerce said Washington had also agreed to recognise the importance of China’s “Belt and Road initiative”, an ambitious infrastructure campaign that some say has the potential to be the greatest development plan in history.
Officials including Matthew Pottinger, Trump’s top Asia adviser, will travel to Beijing this weekend for a two-day summit about Xi’s signature foreign policy, although the US president, like many western leaders, will not attend.
Balding said the agreement showed how Trump’s pre-election China-bashing had given him some “leverage” over Beijing and highlighted his focus on economic issues. “This was the kind of deal that the Obama administration probably could have secured. But I don’t think these kinds of issues were the priority for them.”
However, Balding said China had made no earth-shattering concessions. “This is not an irrelevant deal announcement of market opening but at the same time it is most definitely not a major announcement. There is nothing really expensive here for the Chinese and in some cases they are even things that they want. They are probably essentially trying to set Trump up for a win.”
Balding said it was hard to tell if US-China relations were genuinely at a new high, as Ross claimed.
“[TRUMP] is such a high variance president. This could just as easily hit an enormous roadblock tomorrow. For the next 24 hours I would say US-China relations are at a high point.”