America and China sign a trade deal

WITH HIS habit of announcing trade deals only for them to dissolve within weeks, President Donald Trump is a standing reminder that talk is cheap. But on January 15th he signed a phase one trade agreement with China alongside Liu He, the Chinese vice-premier, and published its contents for the world to see. The 86 pages set out the terms of a new economic relationship between these two giants. Alongside some welcome measures, there are some howlers—and glaring omissions.

Throughout the whole, however, runs a common pattern. Clauses that are in reality concessions wrung from the Chinese are often written in such a way that they formally apply to both sides—but with subclauses specifying the actions that the Chinese are to take. For example, pledges to protect trade secrets are accompanied by new processes by which American companies can complain about breaches.

The deal also addresses several long-standing American complaints about China’s foot-dragging. China pledged that approvals of agricultural biotechnology products will take less than two years. The deal sets deadlines for China to consider licence applications by MasterCard and Visa. And China will lower bureaucratic barriers to imports of American dairy, pork and beef.

As many a weary trade negotiator can attest, China has a history of reneging on promises...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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