Editorial : Meeting between Xi and Trump: a win-win situation

【明報專訊】THE meeting and working dinner held between Chinese president Xi Jinping and US president Donald Trump, accompanied by their respective teams, in Buenos Aires lasted for more than two hours, and the outcome has been even more fruitful than that of the G20 summit. Though the meeting has brought about little more than a three-month truce when it comes to the trade war, it has prevented the escalation of the conflicts between China and US and recreated an atmosphere of both nations willing to solve the problems through negotiations. All this has influenced relations between the two countries and the global economic situation very positively. Though the deep-seated, structural conflicts between the two countries remain unresolved, the two countries can at least trade time for space, giving themselves room for manoeuvre. With China making substantive concessions, the US has saved its face, while China has won precious time for further reform with the easing of pressure from abroad.

According to statements published by both sides, the meeting between Xi and Trump has achieved the following: the US's promise to stall a plan to raise tariffs on US$200 billion's worth of Chinese goods to 25% on 1st January and keep the tariffs at the current 10% level; China's promise to import more agricultural products and other goods from the US in order to reduce the US's trade deficit; the launch of a 90-day negotiation between both sides, and the US raising the tariffs from 10% to 25% if an agreement is not reached within 90 days. Furthermore, China has promised to step up the regulation of Fentanyl, a pain medication which the US has complained about, and reconsider Qualcomm's plan to acquire NXP, which was vetoed previously. That China and the US have reached a truce is, to China, an important strategic opportunity for a breathing spell. It is also a positive factor for the global economy.

On the surface, China has made more concessions than the US. Apart from Fentanyl and the Qualcomm-NXP deal, China has also promised to import more goods from the US, while the US's concession is just the delay of the increase of the tariffs to 25% for 90 days. However, according to China's statement, the decision to broaden the import of US goods was made to "accommodate the progress of a new stage of Reform and Opening up and the needs of the domestic market and the people". The actual size of the import has not been disclosed. This, in fact, is a repeat of the promise made by vice premier Liu He during his visit to the US in May this year. China's statement also contains this sentence: "The specific agreement reached between both sides that is of mutual benefit and that achieves a win-win situation will be the basis and prerequisite of China's related proactive action on the US". This implies that China's large-scale import of US goods will hinge on what agreement will come of the 90-day negotiation.

The truce reached during the Xi-Trump meeting can only be seen as a small gift to the world in a year that marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and the US on 1st January. To China, the cooperation with the US is of course important. But the determining factor in the Chinese economy's healthy development in the long term is the tackling of the country's many structural problems such as property bubbles, excess capacity, population ageing and the difficulties facing private enterprises.

明報社評2018.12.03:習特會中美雙贏 北京時間換空間






substantive : dealing with real, important or serious matters

save sb's face : to avoid or help sb avoid embarrassment

hinge on/upon sth : (of an action, a result, etc. ) to depend on sth completely

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