Another batch of American goods have been exempted from retaliatory duties as China faces increasing pressure to expand its imports from the United States.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Finance, 79 American products — including rare earth metals, mineral ores, semiconductor parts and a range of chemicals — are eligible for waivers. The exclusions will take effect on May 19 and expire next year.
The announcement comes less than a week after Chinese Vice Premier Liu He participated in a conference call with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Both parties, according to officials in Beijing and Washington, said they were making “good progress” on implementing the “phase one” agreement struck in mid-January.
Top negotiators for the countries also discussed updates on the COVID-19 health crisis and its impact on economic growth. Fresh uncertainties over the future of the trade deal — which served as a truce to a more-than-yearlong trade war between the world’s two largest economies — surfaced over the weekend when President Donald Trump threatened to “terminate” the agreement if China failed to buy the amount of goods and services from the U.S. as promised.
As part of the deal, China committed to increasing its imports from the U.S. by $200 billion over the next two years compared with the amount in 2017. (That figure includes $76.7 billion more in U.S. products this year, plus another $123.3 billion in 2021.) According to data released by the Commerce Department last week, China’s purchases of U.S. goods and services within the first three months of the year were below 2017’s levels by more than $7 billion.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing are already at a high amid the coronavirus pandemic, particularly after the U.S. alleged that China had mishandled the outbreak and contributed to a global economic fallout. COVID-19, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now claimed at least 290,000 lives around the world and sickened more than 4.24 million people.