United States and China officials have agreed this weekend to take steps to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, the White House said Saturday.
The agreement between the world's two biggest economies was made this week in Washington by high-level negotiators from both countries, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China,” the White House said, in what it described as a joint statement with China.
The White House also said China would “significantly increase purchases” of U.S. goods and services to help America’s economic growth and to meet its own growing consumption needs, in an apparent effort to avoid an international trade war.
Among the primary focuses of the consensus: an agreement to expand trade in manufactured goods and services, increase U.S. agriculture and energy exports, and protect both countries’ intellectual property laws.
The White House also said next steps would include the U.S. sending a team to China to work out the details.
President Trump has since his 2016 presidential campaign vowed to improve international trade relationships, including the one with China that last year resulted in a $337 billion trade deficit with the country.
Trump on Friday called the deal "bad for our country” and said, “We're changing it around."
After the White House announcement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested the agreement falls short on protecting America’s intellectual property.
“The key to a strong agreement is protecting our intellectual property here in America and stopping the Chinese from keeping out our best goods until we hand over our trade secrets,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “The joint statement has nothing specific on those fronts.”
China recently appears to be sending signals about trying to avoid a trade war.
Beijing has dropped an anti-dumping investigation into imported U.S. sorghum, which it had accused the U.S. of unfairly subsidizing. It has also given approval for a U.S. private equity firm to buy Toshiba's memory chip business.
"China has come to trade," Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, told reporters. "They are meeting many of our demands. No deal yet, to be sure, and it's probably going to take a while -- it's a process."
China's Commerce Ministry said Friday that it was ending its inquiry into whether the U.S. was dumping sorghum in the Chinese market at artificially low prices, saying the investigation was not in the public interest. A day earlier, Beijing cleared the way for a group led by the U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba's computer memory chip business.
The moves signaled at least a willingness by Beijing to work toward a deal with Washington.
"I think China is willing to make concessions," said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS. "The Chinese stance has been very clear -- that China wants to mute any trade dispute. But of course it doesn't mean China would heed to all the demands the U.S. would place."
A White House official said China had offered to work to cut its trade deficit with the U.S. by $200 billion, while stressing that any details remained unclear. But China's Foreign Ministry denied that any such offer had been made.
The Commerce Ministry said it was ending the anti-dumping probe and a parallel anti-subsidy investigation because they would have raised costs for Chinese consumers.
The U.S. is China's biggest supplier of sorghum, accounting for more than 90 percent of its total imports. China's investigation, launched in February, had come as a warning shot to American farmers, many of whom support the Trump administration yet depend heavily on trade. They feared they would lose their largest export market for the crop, which is used primarily for animal feed and liquor.
"Anti-dumping and countervailing measures against imported sorghum originating in the United States would affect the cost of living of a majority of consumers and would not be in the public interest," according to a notice posted on China's Commerce Ministry website.
The ministry said it had received many reports that the investigation would result in higher costs for the livestock industry, adding that many domestic pig farmers were facing hardship because of declining pork prices.
China's U.S. sorghum imports surged from 317,000 metric tons in 2013 to 4.76 million tons last year. Prices fell by about a third over the same period.
The ministry said any deposits for the preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent, which took effect on April 18, would be returned in full.
The announcement came after Trump met at the White House with Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of China's delegation for talks with a U.S. team, which also includes Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.