Chinese government officials will visit Washington next week to sign a "phase one" trade deal with the US, China's commerce ministry said today.
The comments confirm US President Donald Trump's timeline for the signing ceremony announced last week, further boosting the prospects of the two countries reaching a deal that will at least put on hold their trade dispute.
Chinese vice-premier Liu He will lead a delegation to Washington over 13-15 January to sign the first-phase deal, the commerce ministry said. "The teams of both parties are in close communication on the specific arrangements for signing the agreement," it said.
The commerce ministry did not comment on the content of the agreement. The outline of the phase-one deal was agreed last month, averting a round of tariffs covering an additional 30pc of the volume of US imports from China that were scheduled to take effect on 15 December.
The deal outline released by the US and described by Chinese officials points to an ambitious document covering financial services, currency rates and a mechanism for enforcing trade disputes. But a lack of detail from both sides suggests negotiations may be continuing on rolling back existing tariffs and commitments by China to buy US energy and other commodities.
US officials say that Beijing has committed to buying $200bn of US energy, agricultural and other products and services in 2020-21, nearly doubling its total US imports. But Beijing said its energy purchases will be based on market fundamentals.
The Chinese government has made small steps towards market liberalisation since talks on the interim deal concluded in mid-December. It announced plans last month to remove import tariffs on a handful of products including some US-origin polymers, and today provided more details of reforms to its upstream oil and gas sector that will widen access for foreign companies. But it is unclear if such measures will carry much weight in talks with the US Trump administration, which appears focused on securing promises from Beijing to raise its purchases of US products.
And in another possible sign of disagreement, the commerce ministry today pointedly declined to confirm Trump's plans to visit Beijing or his assertion that talks will begin soon on a second-phase agreement.
"Regarding the second stage of consultations, I have no more information to share with you," the ministry said.
By Kevin Foster