The Trump administration has invited at least 200 people to a Jan. 15 ceremony to witness the signing of the Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China, but the two countries have not yet finalized what, exactly, will be signed, White House officials said on Friday.
On Dec. 15, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said a deal to end the trade war between the world’s biggest importer and largest exporter was “totally done,” minus translation of an 86-page document into Chinese.
White House officials said on Friday the translation still has not been completed, although White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox Business Network it “is virtually complete” and the signing is “all on schedule.”
Officials are waiting “for the Chinese translation of the 86-page agreement,” White House adviser Peter Navarro told CNBC later. The deal is “in the bank,” he said.
Top officials from Beijing and U.S. lawmakers from states affected by the 18-month trade war are expected to attend the signing in the White House’s East Room, between U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Vice-Premier Liu He, according to several sources.
Past trade negotiations between Chinese and U.S. officials have been marked by last-minute upsets. In May, 2019, an expected deal was scrapped after Beijing eliminated binding legal language from the draft.
U.S. officials said in December that Beijing has pledged to buy US$200-billion more from the U.S. over the next two years as part of the deal, including some US$40-billion a year in agricultural products. The U.S. will halve tariffs on nearly US$160-billion in Chinese goods in return.
Beijing has not confirmed those details, and recent government actions in the agriculture indy make the US$40-billion target seem unlikely.
Chinese officials have been careful not to publicly discuss details of the Phase 1 deal, because Washington has changed its position multiple times during negotiations, three Chinese officials with knowledge of the situation said.
Beyond the signing, what matters is enforcement, one official said. For over a month, the sides have debated the text and word choice as they finalized the effective date for the agreement, the official said.
“Some minor issues” arose as translation unfolded, one U.S. source briefed on the negotiations said on Wednesday, adding it was “nothing that would delay the deal.”
China’s Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan; Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China; and vice-ministers of finance, foreign affairs and industry, are among those expected to attend. Another team will watch from Beijing in real time, a Chinese official said.
U.S. companies have paid nearly US$40-billion in higher tariffs on Chinese products during the trade war, data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows.
Asked about Mr. Liu’s visit to Washington at a briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that both sides are in close communication on specifics pertaining to the trip.