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Top US, China trade officials agree to create ‘favorable atmosphere’ for talks

U.S. and Chinese trade officials spoke Thursday evening to discuss “phase one” of a deal that was signed in January, promising to uphold their ends of the bargain and create a “favorable atmosphere” for trade. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin participated in a conference call with the chief Chinese envoy, Vice Premier Liu He. 

The two agreed to “create a favorable atmosphere and conditions” for implementing “phase one” of the trade deal, according to China’s Commerce Ministry.

The talks are taking place against a backdrop of sniping between the two countries over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and what U.S. officials say has been a lack of communication by Beijing on the nature of the virus in China. 

President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both floated the possibility that the virus might have emerged from a Chinese lab, something Beijing has denied. The U.S. intelligence community is investigating the origins of the virus. Much of the scientific community believes the virus occurred through a natural jump from animals to humans. 

Some Chinese officials have floated a false narrative that the virus was a U.S. military plot, something that has angered Trump. 

The economies of both countries have been hit hard by the virus, with U.S. unemployment jumping on Friday to more than 14 percent, a post-World War II high. 

China’s economy contracted 6.8 percent in the first quarter. 

In the trade talks, the two countries “agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner” and are making “good progress” on creating infrastructure to execute the agreement, according to the Office of the U.S.Trade Representative

In both statements the countries agreed to maintain consistent communication. 

The U.S. and China were embroiled in a trade war for the last two years that added tariffs on each other’s products. The deal signed this year will reduce some tariff hikes and postpone others in exchange for what Trump said was a Chinese commitment to buy American farm goods and other exports worth $200 billion, with about $77 billion in increased purchases in the first year and $123 billion in the second year.

The pandemic led to a decrease in demand for consumer goods, which raised questions over whether China would meet the demands to buy U.S. goods. Trump said Sunday that he would “terminate” the “phase one” trade deal if China didn’t uphold its end of the deal.

Tags china trade deal Donald Trump economy Mike Pompeo phase one deal Robert Lighthizer Steven Mnuchin

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