China will allow U.S. beef exports after deal on trade issues

Published: May. 12, 2017 at 9:41 AM CDT
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A new trade deal will allow beef and natural gas exports to flow into China from the United States while opening up the U.S. market for cooked poultry and Chinese banks, the U.S. Commerce Secretary announced Thursday.

The initial slate of commitments from the two countries marked the first sign of progress on the 100-day action plan that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping called for during their meeting at Trump's Florida estate last month. Trump made renegotiating trade terms between the United States and China a key plank of his presidential campaign, and said last month he hoped to make progress with China in the short term.

Under the agreement, China will allow U.S. beef exports to flow directly to the country for the first time since 2003, while the United States will take steps to authorize Chinese imports of cooked poultry into the United States by July 16. The United States and China also agreed to open up US exports of liquefied natural gas to China, which could be a boon for both countries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the initial agreement, which would also open up the Chinese market to U.S. electronic payment services companies and help Chinese banks gain broader access to the U.S. financial market, would help "bring down" the U.S. trade deficit with China, though he did not provide a precise estimate.

Trump railed against that deficit during his campaign and vowed to reduce it as President. While he floated drastic measures like imposing a tariff on Chinese imports, Trump has instead favored bilateral negotiations thus far.

The president hailed the agreement on Friday, tweeting, "China just agreed that the U.S. will be allowed to sell beef, and other major products, into China once again. This is REAL news!"

Positive step

Ross called the agreement a "herculean accomplishment" and argued the deal represented the biggest accomplishment in U.S. - China trade negotiations "in the whole history of U.S. - China relations."

Joshua Meltzer, a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution, called Ross' characterization "an overstatement, to put it mildly," but said the agreement marked a positive initial step to come out of the renewed U.S. - Chinese comprehensive economic dialogue.

The agreement could mark new opportunities for the U.S. agricultural, energy and financial sectors, which have often struggled for market access in China, Meltzer said.

But he noted that China has "made a lot of positive commitments that it hasn't followed through on" in the past.

"It remains to be seen how much of these turn into real market access," Meltzerd said.

No 'quid pro quo'

Trump signed off on the agreement following weeks of discussions that he delegated to his secretaries of Commerce and Treasury, which Ross said took place "mostly at very inconvenient hours" owing to the 12-hour time difference between the two countries.

Throughout the negotiations, Ross said Trump was briefed "more or less every single day" on the progress of the negotiations.

While Trump has said that he was willing to agree to less favorable trade terms for the United States in trade negotiations with China in order to enlist China' support in stopping North Korea's aggressive nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, Ross said there was no "quid pro quo in these discussions."

Ross acknowledged that there are hundreds of issues that still need to be resolved between the United States and China.

US companies still complain of high barriers to entry to the Chinese market, while Chinese companies have hurt US manufacturers in part as a result of government support.

The United States in recent months has also launched a series of studies and investigations into foreign trade abuses and the impact of certain exports on specific US industries, several of which are directed at Chinese actions.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to properly identify who was quoted. It was Joshua Meltzer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.