By Katy Stech Ferek
WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials said Tuesday that Chinese leaders have taken the first steps toward implementing the first phase of a trade deal between the world's two largest economies, an announcement that comes amid concerns that the coronavirus could delay the pace of China's promise to purchase more U.S. crops and other goods.
In a statement, U.S. officials noted that Chinese leaders have lifted import restrictions on U.S. poultry and poultry products and pet food, along with other actions, since the deal took effect on Feb. 14. Those provisions were part of a 90-page written agreement signed last month.
The deal calls for China to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products by $32 billion over a two-year period. Tuesday's statement didn't say how much China has agreed to purchase of its roughly $200 billion goal so far.
"President Trump and this Administration negotiated a strong trade agreement with China that promises significant benefits for American agriculture," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in the statement.
Meanwhile, China has begun announcing tariff exclusions for U.S. imports that were hit with retaliatory tariffs. Before the deal, both countries put tariffs on imported goods. U.S. officials later agreed to lift a portion of those tariffs, but the deal left in place U.S. tariffs on about $370 billion in Chinese goods, or about three-quarters of Chinese imports to the U.S.
Since the deal was announced, trade experts have questioned whether China will follow through with its purchase pledges and say the deal's potential failure has the power to sway rural voters in an election year. They have also questioned whether the spreading coronavirus could derail the deal, which calls for China to purchase more goods over the two-year period.
Earlier this month, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said he expected the fallout from the deadly coronavirus to delay -- but not derail -- the economic boost the U.S. anticipated from the deal. Any purchase delays by China, however, could be made up with a surge of buying later.
The phase-one deal also calls for China to step up purchases of manufactured goods by $77.7 billion. The category of tech services, which includes charges for cloud computing-related services and the use of intellectual property, is projected to grow by $37.9 billion. Energy purchases will increase by $52.4 billion under the deal.
"We will ensure the agreement is strictly enforced for the benefit of our workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses," said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who led the China trade negotiations, in Tuesday's statement.
Write to Katy Stech Ferek at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 25, 2020 12:23 ET (17:23 GMT)
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