First stage of China-US trade deal near?

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/1 23:23:43 Last Updated: 2019/12/2 9:24:53

Chinese and US trade officials make attempt at striking a trade deal to defuse an increasingly bruising trade war that has rattled global markets and presented mounting challenges to both economies. Photo: VCG

Are China and the US on the way to reaching the first stage of a trade agreement? How far away is the realization of this goal? For some time, both sides have been sending out messages. The US actually contributes more information, but these messages often cancel each other out. It is still uncertain when a consensus can be reached for a phase one trade deal.

More importantly, why is it necessary to have such an agreement? Is it worth it for both sides to work toward that goal? 

For one thing, achieving a phase one agreement would signal that the China-US trade war has reached a mutually recognizable turning point. According to the core concerns of both Beijing and Washington, China wants tariffs to be rolled back in the phase one trade agreement, which would be the first step to cancel the tariffs that have been imposed by the two sides since last year. For its part, the US wants China to buy a large amount of American agricultural products right now. If a deal is reached, both countries can benefit. 

However, these economic interests alone are not enough to motivate the two sides to reach an significant result. China and the US can both bear the current losses, and potential future economic losses will be far from fatal for either country. 

The US government believes that China's economy is being battered, which is totally self-deceiving propaganda. The trade war has caused China some difficulties, but these difficulties will never lead to significant political compromises by Beijing. China's economy is basically under smooth operation, and Chinese society has adapted to cope with the trade war.

The significance of a phase one trade deal will be more political than economic. It will be extensively regarded as a political gesture. China and the US are willing and able to control their huge differences through consultation and negotiation, so that a chain reaction won't occur and shake the current world order.

The biggest confusion about this issue from the rest of the world lies in the blurry prospect of China-US relations. From US Vice President Mike Pence to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, many American senior officials express obvious hostility against China, while US President Donald Trump sometimes makes some kind statements to please China. Nevertheless, they are obviously just playing "good cop, bad cop." Many think some American political elites want to help bring about a "Cold War" with China. But since that is apparently unpopular in the 21st century, do they really have support in the US?

Trump has never abandoned negotiation with China and the US government has made some practical efforts toward reaching an agreement. Based on this, it appears that radical policies don't have uniform support in the US. 

Washington has the motivation to meet Beijing halfway as China seeks to expand its opening-up. American views of China will be tested when Trump runs for re-election next year. That's when it will be determined what is most popular among Americans - the motivation to cooperate with China or the impulse to decouple the two countries' economies.

Hopefully, a phase one trade agreement can be reached. That would be a mutual success and a tribute to both sides' rationality. On the contrary, if the other way of thinking dominates China-US relations, both countries will waste time on a dead-end road.


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