BEIJING — China put a positive face Saturday on a first-step trade agreement that dials down a trade war it blames the U.S. for starting.
Chinese experts and news media joined government officials in saying the deal would reduce uncertainty for companies, at least in the short term. But they remained cautious, saying both sides will have to show a willingness to compromise to resolve the more fundamental differences between them.
“It at least stabilizes the situation and lays a foundation for the next round of trade talks or cancelling additional tariffs in the future,” said Tu Xinquan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. “I cannot predict what achievement can be made during the future talks.”
The two countries announced a “Phase 1” agreement Friday under which both sides will reduce tariffs and China will buy more U.S. farm products. Chinese officials said the nine-chapter text, which includes intellectual property, technology transfer, financial services and dispute settlement, has to undergo legal and translation review before it can be signed.
At a late night news conference, timed to coincide with the U.S. morning, the officials said the United States would begin phasing out tariffs on Chinese imports, rather than continue to raise them. The deal was announced just two days before higher tariffs were set to kick in. China will make similar tariff cuts, the officials said, but they gave no details.
China portrayed the agreement as in line with the opening up of its economy and the deepening of its economic reforms. Increased imports of high-quality products from the United States and elsewhere will “meet the growing needs of the people for a better life,” Wang Shouwen, a deputy commerce minister and trade negotiator, said in a statement.
The Global Times, a state-owned newspaper known for its nationalistic views, called the agreement a new beginning. It pointed to stock market gains in recent days as word of a possible deal leaked. The dispute between the world’s two largest economies had rattled markets and depressed global growth.
“China and the U.S. have been locked in a trade war for about 20 months and neither side could overwhelm the other to recklessly impose its own will on the other,” the newspaper said.
It added, though, that both countries are capable of prolonging the trade war, and that they must be willing to compromise if they want to resolve their differences through patient negotiations.
“Rome was not built in a day,” it wrote.