After nearly two years’ trade talks, the world’s two dominant economic powers, the United States and China, have signed an initial trade deal that will roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of US goods and services. Through the “Phase One” deal, which was signed in Washington on January 15, the Trump administration aims to resolve some longstanding American concerns about Chinese trade abuses. Although the centrepiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase at least an additional $200 billion worth of US farm products and other goods and services over two years, over a baseline of $186 billion in purchases in 2017, the accord appears to leave questions about how Washington and Beijing will enforce its terms and prevent further tensions. Some of the commitments contained in the 86-page document, which has eight chapters and a preamble, echo previous pledges made by China at the WTO or in G20 summits, and repackage steps Beijing had already been taking towards more open markets. Cybertheft by China as well as its use of industrial subsidies and its barriers against some US technology investments have not been addressed.

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