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First phase of US-China trade deal finalised

The US NFU is cautiously optimistic that the agreement will stabilise agricultural export markets.

16 January 2020, at 9:09am

In an effort to ease tensions between their two countries, President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He today signed the first phase of a trade agreement. At the time of the signing, the deal’s text had not yet been published. However, according to the White House, China has agreed to “structural reforms” on trading, currency, and intellectual property rules and practices. The country will also reportedly increase its purchases of American goods and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years, which includes $40-50 billion worth of agricultural products. Though China has confirmed that it will increase its agricultural purchases, it has not publicly committed to a specific dollar amount, nor has it indicated which products it plans to buy.

The progress comes as a relief to National Farmers Union (NFU), which has consistently expressed concern about the consequences of President Trump’s antagonistic trade policy for American farmers and ranchers. But because the terms of the deal are still largely unclear, the organisation continues to be apprehensive about its implications for agriculture and China’s trade practices.

In a statement, NFU President Roger Johnson conveyed cautious optimism about the first phase of the agreement and pushed for stronger and more enforceable provisions in the second phase:

“After so many months of uncertainty and escalating tensions, it is a good sign that our two countries appear to have found common ground. We are hopeful that this deal will meaningfully address China’s problematic trade practices and intellectual property theft as well as finally establish some stability for American farmers’ export markets.

“But given the numerous deals that have been reached and then breached in the past two years, we are also sceptical. And without more concrete details, we are deeply concerned that all of this pain may not have been worth it. Not only has this trade war cost farmers billions of dollars worth of sales to China, but it has also bruised our reputation, making other trading partners reluctant to work with us. To justify these lasting damages, this deal must deliver more than vague, unenforceable, short-term commitments ­– we need real and lasting behavioural change from China, and we need reliable and robust agricultural export markets. That is the standard the Trump administration should be aiming for as it negotiates the next phase of this agreement.”