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Trade war

China still mum despite Trump announcement of trade deal signing

President eager to tout export boost on campaign trail

Soybeans are harvested on a farm in Indiana. The Trump administration is eager to deliver on a pledge to make China buy more U.S. farm goods.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON/BEIJING -- Eager to deliver a promised doubling of American exports to China, U.S. President Donald Trump has talked up an imminent signing of a "phase one" trade deal, but official word on the timing has yet to come from Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment on the deal in a news conference Thursday, referring the questioner to the Commerce Ministry.

Beijing has yet to unveil specifics of the partial agreement, stating only that details will be released after the signing.

For Trump, who tweeted Tuesday that the deal would be signed Jan. 15 at the White House, increasing exports to China is a top priority.

Under the deal reached in mid-December, China will buy an additional $200 billion in American goods and services over the next two years, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. As a result, China-bound exports will more than double from the nearly $190 billion of 2017.

In return, Washington will halve the 15% additional tariffs imposed this past September on $120 billion in Chinese goods to 7.5% by mid-February. Beijing will agree to protect intellectual property rights and bar forced technology transfers. The U.S. will be able to impose retaliatory tariffs again if China reneges, a senior American official said.

Trump's tweet contrasts with the official silence from the Chinese side, which appears disinclined to talk up the deal.

Chinese negotiators' failure to get Washington to roll back the additional tariffs altogether has fueled dissatisfaction in Beijing, a local official said.

Major media outlets did not report on Trump's tweet about the deal signing, perhaps out of concern over adding to frustration within the Communist Party.

The question for the U.S. is how to get China to alter its subsidies to businesses and overhaul state-owned enterprises. Trump tweeted that he will travel to Beijing on an unspecified "later date" to begin the second-phase talks.

But the Chinese side is not budging on the subsidies, deeming them a matter of state sovereignty. Few observers expect the next round of negotiations to begin anytime soon.

With Trump's reelection bid going into full swing this year, the U.S. is putting the trade war on hold out of consideration for the economy but will play the tariff card again when necessary, according to a senior official in the campaign.

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