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A Break In The U.S.-China Trade War


There's a ceasefire in the trade war between the United States and China. The two countries confirmed yesterday they'll sign what they're calling the first phase of an agreement that addresses some of the trade frictions between them.

NPR's Jim Zarroli has more.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The Trump administration was set to raise tariffs on more Chinese imports this Sunday. Now that won't happen. In the new deal, the administration says China has agreed to buy some $200 billion in additional goods and services from the United States over two years, including $50 billion in farm products.

Economist Mary Lovely of Syracuse University says the agreement should bring a truce in the bitter trade war between the two countries.

MARY LOVELY: We basically, in some sense, stopped slapping ourselves, stopped slapping them. I think that's good. I'm happy to see it.

ZARROLI: But there are still a lot of questions about the agreement. U.S. officials say China has promised to address some of the long-standing issues between them, such as forced technology transfers and the theft of U.S. intellectual property by Chinese companies. China has made such promises before without much follow through, and because neither country released the text of yesterday's agreement it's hard to say whether this time will be any different.

Again, Mary Lovely.

LOVELY: Here, the devil is very much in the details, and we don't have the details.

ZARROLI: Some Democrats were quick to criticize the deal. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York says the administration has quote, "sold out for a temporary and unreliable promise from China to purchase some soybeans," unquote. But administration officials pointed out that the U.S. was reducing tariffs, not eliminating them, and could easily reinstate them if China doesn't come through.

Larry Kudlow, who heads Trump's National Economic Council, spoke on CNBC yesterday.


LARRY KUDLOW: This deal today gives up some, both sides - that's the way to negotiate. But we definitely continue to have an insurance policy in terms of some of the ongoing tariffs.

ZARROLI: Kudlow said the text of the deal will be released within a few weeks, and it should be signed by the two countries after the new year. Meanwhile, Trump said the U.S. will proceed with the next phase of trade talks with China. Phase two is expected to deal with the way the Chinese government props up its own companies by giving them massive subsidies, and that's an even thornier issue than anything dealt with before now.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF THREE TRAPPED TIGERS' "5") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.
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