WHITE HOUSE - A sweeping trade agreement, ranging from banking to beef, has been reached between Washington and Beijing, the U.S. Commerce Department announced on Thursday.
“It was pretty much a Herculean accomplishment to get this done,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “This is more than has been done in the whole history of U.S.-China relations on trade.”
The breakthrough results from an agreement U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping made during their meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6.
Trump “was briefed more or less every single day” as negotiations progressed since then, Ross said.
Following one more round of “technical consultations,” China has agreed to allow U.S. beef imports no later than July 16, consistent with international food and animal safety standards, Ross told reporters at the White House.
The United States Cattlemen’s Association applauded the agreement, saying market access to China is crucial for its members.
“Success in this arena will drive the U.S. cattle market and increase demand for U.S. beef” in China, association president Kenny Graner told VOA.
In exchange, Washington and Beijing are to resolve outstanding issues that would allow imports to the U.S. of cooked poultry from China “as soon as possible,” according to the Commerce Department.
Another significant breakthrough will see American liquefied natural gas (LNG) going to China. Under the agreement Chinese companies will be permitted “at any time to negotiate all types of contractual arrangement with U.S. LNG exporters, including long term contracts,” according to the Commerce Department.
This is “a very big change,” said Ross, noting China is trying to wean itself off coal at a time “it doesn’t produce enough natural gas to meet its needs.”
Financial, other business services
Among other action listed in the 100-Day Action Plan:
* China is to allow, by July 16, “wholly foreign-owned financial services firms” to provide credit ratings services and to begin licensing procedures for credit investigation.
* U.S.-owned suppliers of electronic payment services (EPS) will be able to apply for licensing in China under new guidelines.
* China is to issue bond underwriting and settlement licenses to two qualified U.S. financial institutions by July 16.
* China’s National Biosafety Committee is to meet by the end of this month to conduct science-based evaluations of all eight pending U.S. biotechnology product applications “to assess the safety of the products for their intended use.” Those that pass the tests are to get certificates within 20 working days.
The outcome of the joint dialogue will also see a United States delegation attending China’s Belt and Road Forum in Beijing next week.
A U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue will be held this summer, according to the Commerce Department, to deepen engagement on these and other issues.
“There are probably 500 items you could potentially discuss” in the wider one-year plan for bilateral trade, Ross added.