ollowing a 19-month trade war, the United States and China have announced that they have agreed at last to a deal — though it remains a mystery what that deal consists of.
The most thorough description so far of the “Phase One” deal comes from two Donald Trump tweets, with the US president describing the deal as being a “very large” one where China has agreed to make “massive purchases” of agricultural, energy, and manufactured goods.
…..The Penalty Tariffs set for December 15th will not be charged because of the fact that we made the deal. We will begin negotiations on the Phase Two Deal immediately, rather than waiting until after the 2020 Election. This is an amazing deal for all. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2019
As Trump was tweeting, a last-minute, late-night (10:30 pm!) press conference was being held in Beijing where Chinese officials somehow managed to be even more vague, dodging questions about how much agricultural products China had pledged to buy, along with any other questions dealing with numbers.
Officials did say that the text of the agreement comprised nine chapters: intellectual property, forced technology transfer, food and agricultural products, finance, currency and transparency, boosting trade, bilateral assessment and dispute resolution.
However, they also admitted that it still needed to be legally reviewed, translated, and proofread before it could be signed.
In a rather surreal sort of back and forth, reporters asked Chinese officials for their responses to Trump’s tweets just as they were posted. For his part, deputy financial minister Liao Min said that Phase Two of the deal will depend upon how Phase One is put into action and that both sides had not yet broached when these discussions will take place.
Considering the vagueness and lack of proofreading, the Phase One deal has failed to impress many China-watchers, giving off the impression that the two sides remain deadlocked on some critical issues but wanted to sign an agreement before the weekend, even if they didn’t actually agree to much of anything.
So the U.S. and China have both agreed to announce a "trade deal," which so far as I can tell consists entirely of both sides repeatedly saying the words "trade deal."
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) December 13, 2019
Zero. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
— Jorge Guajardo (@jorge_guajardo) December 13, 2019
There has at least been one concrete result of this Phase One deal with the US agreeing not to institute new 15 percent tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese goods that had been planned for December 15.