China to buy $50bn in US farm goods for tariff relief

Senior Chinese diplomat, however, criticises US for damaging bilateral relations

(FILES) In this file China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 29, 2019. The United States was poised Thursday to announce a historic trade deal with China, days before new tariffs are due to kick in between the world's two largest economies, easing a commercial dispute that has roiled markets for almost two years. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski
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Washington has agreed to suspend some tariffs on Chinese goods and cut others in return for Beijing's pledge to hike US farm product purchase in 2020, sources said, taking a step to de-escalate the bitter trade war.

Neither Washington nor Beijing have released any official statements, however, raising questions about whether the terms had been agreed by both sides.

A source briefed on the status of bilateral negotiations said the US would suspend tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods expected to go into effect on Sunday and roll back existing tariffs.

In return, Beijing would agree to buy $50bn in US agricultural goods in 2020, double what it bought in 2017, before the trade conflict started, two US-based sources briefed on the talks said.

Both countries need to make formal announcements to cancel or postpone the scheduled tit-for-tat tariffs on each other's goods that are scheduled to take effect on Sunday, however.

China has so far refrained from imposing unilateral tariffs on US imports but has matched any new round of tariffs implemented by Washington with retaliatory measures.

Two people familiar with the negotiations had said earlier that US negotiators were offering to cut existing tariffs on Chinese goods by as much as 50 per cent as well as suspend the new tariffs scheduled to go into effect on Sunday in an attempt to secure a "Phase 1" deal first promised in October.

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Friday sharply criticised Washington for damaging the "hard-won foundation of mutual trust" between the two countries, citing US positions on Hong Kong protests and China's camps for ethnic Uighurs.

"We are willing to resolve contradictions and differences between China and the US through dialogue and consultation on the basis of equality and mutual respect, but we will never accept the so-called unilateral sanctions and any acts of bullying," he said.

Though Mr Wang did not explicitly comment on trade negotiations, his remarks underscore the increasingly confrontational relationship between the world's top two economies.

The US-China trade war has slowed global growth and dampened profits and investment for companies around the world. The US has announced $28bn in subsidies for American farmers affected by the dispute.

"If signed, this is an encouraging first phase that puts a floor under further deterioration of the bilateral relationship," said US-China Business Council president Craig Allen.

"But this is just the beginning. The issues facing the US and China are complex and multi-faceted. They are unlikely to all be resolved quickly."

China bought $24bn in US farm products in 2017, according to US Department of Agriculture figures.

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