The White House said Thursday that it has struck agreements with China on several persistent trade irritants that will help reduce the massive trade deficit with Beijing.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced deals that will send U.S. beef exports to China, allow Chinese imports of cooked poultry, expand U.S. electronic payment services and provide for faster regulatory approval of biotechnology products by Beijing.
China and the U.S. had previously committed to more market access on most of these trade issues over the years but implementation had been repeatedly delayed.
The latest agreements set a series of new deadlines for the trade issues although specifics about how each component will be accomplished weren’t included in the Trump administration’s fact sheets provided to reporters.
Ross highlighted his expectation that the improved flow of trade with China will start lowering the nation's $347 billion trade deficit with China by the end of the year although he didn't provide any estimates of how much.
“By the latter part of the year, you should see something," he said.
Trade deficits have been a major focus of the Trump administration with studies planned to determine global problem spots.
As part of the deal, Ross told reporters that China has agreed to accept U.S. beef imports by July 16, which would be nearly a year after Beijing said it would start buying beef again under the Obama administration.
The two nations agreed to restart sales in September but U.S. producers were unable to get their beef into China.
China cut off U.S. supply in 2003 when mad cow disease affected some American herds.
"It’s at least a $2.5 billion market that’s being opened up for U.S. beef," Ross said.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden said beef producers welcomed the announcement.
“It’s impossible to overstate how beneficial this will be for America’s cattle producers, and the Trump administration deserves a lot of credit for getting this achieved,” Uden said.
In return, the United States will resolve outstanding issues around the import of cooked poultry from China, which has been in a holding pattern for nearly three years.
In November 2014, the Agriculture Department gave four Chinese companies approval to import cooked poultry products to the United States.
But China's food safety system still needed clearance from the Agriculture Department before chickens could be sent here.
The 10-point plan on sensitive issues started coming together when President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met last month in Florida to plot out a 100-day strategy and start chipping away at some nagging issues between the two nations.
Since taking office Trump has tempered his approach to Beijing after leveling heavy criticism on China during his campaign.
As part of what could be signal of warming relations, the White House will send a delegation to Xi's high-profile global economic development forum — One Belt, One Road — in Beijing over the weekend.
Still, issues such as steel and aluminum dumping and other prickly issues weren’t on the table in this round.
But Ross acknowledged that there is a substantial list of issues that still need attention.
The financial sections of the plan include a promise by China to issue both bond underwriting and settlement licenses to two qualified U.S. financial institutions by July 16.
In early February, Citigroup became the first U.S. bank to receive a bond license from China’s central bank.
Under the deal, China has until July 16 to issue guidelines for opening the U.S. electronic payment services market to companies like Visa and MasterCard.
The United States won a World Trade Organization case in 2013 against China over its restrictive electronic-payment regulations.
U.S. credit-rating agencies also will gain greater access to the Chinese market as part of the overall agreement.
Also on the agenda, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will extend the current no-action relief — first announced May 31, 2016 — to Shanghai Clearing House for six months, with further extensions for up to three years.
The move allows the Shanghai Clearing House — which the CFTC said last year intends to seek a permanent exemption — to temporarily clear certain swaps that are subject to mandatory clearing in China.
As part of the plan, China is expected to speed up the process to approve eight delayed biotechnology product applications affecting companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical, which that have been subject to repeated questioning.
In addition, the U.S. will lift restrictions on exports of natural gas to China, and will allow Chinese entrepreneurs to attend a Washington business summit in June.