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US signs first phase of trade deal with China; Trump calls it ‘unbelievable’

WASHINGTON: After nearly two years of conflict between the world’s two dominant economic powers, the United States and China signed a trade truce on Wednesday, letting businesses around the globe breathe a sigh of relief.

US President Donald Trump, who currently faces an impeachment trial and then a tough reelection bid later this year, called the agreement “momentous.”

But tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in imports remain in place, leaving American consumers and businesses to foot the bill.

The “phase one” agreement includes pledges from China to beef up purchases of American crops and other exports, provides protections for US technology, and new enforcement mechanisms.

“Today, we take a momentous step, one that’s never taken before with China,” that will ensure “fair and reciprocal trade,” Trump said at the White House signing ceremony.

“Together, we are righting the wrongs of the past.”

As Trump ambled through a lengthy commentary on the deal, punctuated by introductions of many officials involved in the negotiations, major networks switched away from the White House to the Congress to show the presentation of articles of impeachment in the Senate as the first step towards a trial.

The easing of US-China trade frictions has boosted stock markets worldwide in recent weeks, as it takes the threat of new tariffs off the table for now.

Trump signed the deal with China’s Vice Premier Liu He, who has led Beijing’s negotiations with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump also thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping and said he would visit China in “the not-too-distant future.”

“Negotiations were tough on us,” Trump said, but they led “to this really incredible breakthrough.”

But he said he will only remove tariffs “if we’re able to do phase two.”

“I’m leaving them on. Otherwise we have no cards to negotiate with.”

In a letter to Trump read by Liu, the Chinese leader said the deal is “good for China, for the US and for the whole world.”

However, the most difficult issues remain to be dealt with in “phase two” negotiations, including massive subsidies for state industry.

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