Good News and Bad

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The United States and China yesterday reached a preliminary trade deal that will offer more export opportunities for U.S. farms, while promising to do more to protect the intellectual property of U.S. companies. It will also reduce tariffs on some boating products and accessories imported from China, while leaving existing tariffs on most other marine products.

President Trump hailed the agreement as a “sea change in international trade,” during the signing ceremony yesterday at the White House.

The Chinese delegation also praised the pact, according to Chinese leader Xi Jinping said in a letter to Trump that the first-phase deal was “good for China, for the U.S. and for the whole world.” Xi said the agreement showed that the two countries had the ability to “act on the basis of equality and mutual respect.” The letter was read by Beijing’s chief negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He.

Most analysts called the agreement a “truce” rather than an end to the trade war.

“We are grateful that the U.S. and China reached an initial deal to de-escalate the trade war, which forgoes a range of additional tariffs on marine products,” Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA senior vice president of government and legal affairs, told Trade Only Today. “Starting Feb. 14, it slashes in half existing tariffs on certain fishing gear and tackle, inflatables, and water sport equipment.”

NMMA was “disappointed” that the administration kept the 25 percent tariff on approximately $350 billion worth of products.

“This deal is not the finish line, and the recreational boating industry will celebrate only after all tariffs on more than 400 commonly used marine items are lifted,” Vasilaros said. “It is vital that the administration capitalizes on this first step and strikes a comprehensive agreement that eliminates tariffs and puts American businesses and workers on a level playing field.”

Bill Kushner, vice president at TACO Marine, told Trade Only Today that the Phase 1 deal will not lift tariffs on his company’s imports from China. “It seems like what this is doing is making sure that things don’t get any worse,” Kushner said. “The U.S. is hoping that if China buys more goods now, a Phase 2 agreement will talk more about policy. Some people don’t expect that to happen until after the election.”

The Trump administration acknowledged that the agreement does not resolve larger U.S. complaints, especially the way the Chinese government subsidizes its companies.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said work on follow-up negotiations will hinge on how China fulfills the commitments it made in the initial phase.

“We have to make sure this is implemented properly,” Lighthizer said. “This is the first agreement of its kind and we have to make sure that it works.”

Read the text of the full agreement here.


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