Chinese media cautiously welcome signing of trade deal

Chinese state media on Thursday hailed a phase one trade deal between Beijing and Washington as a “hard-fought agreement”, but warned of uncertainties that could jeopardise future relations. After nearly two years of conflict, the world’s top two economic powers signed the long-awaited trade truce on Wednesday at the White House.

The agreement includes pledges from China to beef up purchases of American agricultural goods and other exports for two years, and provides some protection for US technology, reports BSS/AFP. China’s nationalistic Global Times, a tabloid with an English-language edition, described the deal as “a hard-fought agreement (which) should be cherished by both sides”.

The China Daily said that “with the signing of the deal, it is now to be hoped that the detente leads to lasting peace”. Communist Party mouthpiece The People’s Daily called it “a new starting point” for US-China relations, while state broadcaster CCTV said the deal was “in the common interest” of both the US and China.

“China-US economic and trade frictions have achieved a phased ‘ceasefire’ and have taken a practical step towards the ultimate resolution of the problem,” CCTV said in a commentary. But state media also warned the nation should brace for future clashes with the US. “The elation was quickly tempered by suspicions that it would not take much to banjax the deal”, wrote the China Daily in an editorial.

It added that there was a “sobering realisation” that if the deal collapsed it would damage the next phase of the agreement and bring tensions to a head again.  The People’s Daily described it as “a stormy process in which China and the US know each other’s determination, strength and energy”. The Global Times questioned the resilience of the deal, asking: “Can a preliminary trade agreement, reached during a period when China-US strategic relations are clearly declining, really work?”

“Will it be replaced by new conflicts or further progress as negotiations continue?” It warned: “Huge uncertainty remains”. Under the text of the deal, which US President Donald Trump signed with China’s Vice Premier Liu He, both sides agree that they can formally complain to each other if either feels the other side is not holding to its end of the bargain.

China has agreed to buy $200 billion more in US goods over two years than it did in 2017, before the trade war began, including $32 billion in American farm products and seafood, almost $78 billion in manufactured goods like aircraft, machinery and steel and $52 billion in energy goods.