BEIJING – China and the United States pledged in a Friday telephone call to continue implementing the first phase of their trade agreement – signed on Jan. 15 – despite the recent tensions between the two countries over the origin of the coronavirus, the Chinese ministry of commerce said.
China’s Vice Premier Liu He, who is the head of the country’s negotiating team, spoke with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a statement from the ministry.
The conversation between the representatives of the two countries over the phone came a few days after US President Donald Trump threatened to terminate the first phase of the agreement if China didn’t buy the promised volume of American products.
The two sides said they must strengthen macroeconomic and public health cooperation, strive to create an atmosphere and favorable conditions to implement the first phase of the trade agreement and promote positive results, according to the statement.
Both parties also agreed to maintain communication and coordination in this regard, it added.
The US and China signed a preliminary agreement on Jan. 15 which, nonetheless, kept most of the tariffs imposed in the preceding months intact.
China pledged to boost its imports of US goods and services by $200 billion over the next two years in return for the US revoking some tariffs imposed on Chinese goods.
The imports to China include $32 billion in additional agricultural purchases, $52 billion in energy products and $78 billion in additional manufactured goods.
Meanwhile, the US agreed to reduce the tariff from 15 to 7.5 percent on $120 billion worth of Chinese goods and cancel additional levies.
The agreement also opened the door for a second round of negotiations to address thornier issues including forced technology transfer, intellectual property, the expansion of trade, the establishment of dispute resolution mechanisms and the opening up of Chinese financial markets.
Although the agreement allowed both countries to enjoy a few months of apparent cordiality, the emergence of the coronavirus once again soured the relationship between the two powers.
In March, Trump began labeling the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus as “the China virus” after Chinese officials suggested that it may have originated in US labs and last week he claimed that the pact was “secondary” to the pandemic.
Trump also called for a probe into China’s handling of the coronavirus and threatened the Asian country with tariffs after claiming to have seen evidence that the virus originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, something Beijing denies.
The US president again blamed the Chinese government for the coronavirus and said that Beijing could have stopped it but chose to let it spread around the world.
China’s Ambassador to the United Nations Chen Xu said Thursday that this was not the time to launch the investigations called for by the US and dismissed claims that China hid information from the World Health Organization as “absurd and ridiculous” as well as threats that compensation will be demanded from the Asian country for damage caused to the global economy.