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Partial trade agreement with China being formalised, says Trump

Washington

THE partial trade bargain struck last week with China is now being formally put down in writing, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday.

"It hasn't been papered yet but it is being papered," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

He insisted that China had already bought US$40 to US$50 million worth of American agriculture products last week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the purchases would be scaled up to that amount annually.

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Mr Trump reiterated that China committed to greater purchases of US farm exports, and made concessions because of economic pressure by Washington.

"They want to make a deal. They have to make a deal. Their economy has been hurt very badly by what we've done and the tariffs," Mr Trump said.

Markets rallied on Friday as the deal was struck, in relief after the steady escalation in the trade conflict with China.

Last week, Mr Trump hailed a breakthrough on a "phase one" deal that he said was substantial and included a surge in purchases of American farm products and also covers intellectual property, financial services and currencies.

However, comments from officials in Beijing raised scepticism about the significance of the agreement.

While the deal meant tariffs increases planned for this week would not go forward, it did not roll back any of the stinging import duties imposed up to now on hundreds of billions of dollars in trade between the economic powers, nor did it address another round of import taxes planned for December.

Mr Trump had originally planned to proceed with a rise in tariffs to 30 per cent from 25 per cent on about US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods last week.

But the US administration has yet to make a decision on how to address planned 10 per cent tariffs on roughly US$156 billion of Chinese goods due to take effect on Dec 15.

Scant specifics are available but Mr Trump says he hopes to sign the agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile next month.

Mr Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he plans to meet with Chinese Vice-President Liu He in Chile ahead of any meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi.

He did not rule out travelling to China with US trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer.

Mr Mnuchin added that discussions about technology transfers would largely be part of a "phase two" of the agreement.

China hopes to reach a phased agreement in a protracted trade dispute with the US and cancel tariffs as soon as possible, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, adding that trade wars had no winners.

A phased agreement would help restore market confidence and reduce uncertainty, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.

"The final goal of both sides' negotiations is to end the trade war and cancel all additional tariffs," Mr Gao said. "This would benefit China, the US and the whole world. We hope that both sides will continue to work together, advance negotiations, and reach a phased agreement as soon as possible."

He added: "Since this year, under the effect of China-US trade frictions, trade and investment between the US and China have fallen.

"This fully demonstrates that trade wars have no winners."

There have been positive signs from China in recent days.

China's securities regulator on Friday unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time.

Increasing foreign access to the sector is among the US demands at the trade talks.

On Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China would remove business restrictions on foreign banks, brokerages and fund management firms, without giving details. AFP, REUTERS