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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

國家主席習近平與美國總統特朗普兩人及其團隊在阿根廷布宜諾斯艾利斯的兩個多小時會晤及工作晚餐,成果比G20峰會的成果更為豐碩。對貿易戰雖然只是達成了暫時休戰3個月的「停火」協議,但卻制止了中美衝突升級走勢,重新營造了兩國願意談判解決問題的氛圍,對於兩國關係及環球經濟形勢都帶來了十分正面的影響。雖然兩國深層次結構性矛盾未解,但起碼以時間換空間,讓雙方都贏得了轉圜空間。美方可以中方的具體讓步保留了面子,中方則在外部壓力稍減下獲得了進一步改革的寶貴時機。

根據雙方的對外公告,今次習特會的主要成果包括:美方承諾暫停在1月1日對2000億美元中國商品關稅加至25%,只會維持現時的10%稅率;中方承諾增加向美國進口農產品及其他商品,以縮小美方貿易逆差;雙方將展開為期90天的談判,若90天內未達成協議,美方再把10%的關稅加至25%。此外,中方承諾,對美投訴的麻醉鎮痛藥物芬太尼加強管制,並願意重新考慮之前否決的高通-恩智浦併購案。中美能達成遏止貿易戰升級的停火協議,對中國來說,是重要的戰略喘息機遇,對全球經濟也是利好因素。

表面看,中方的讓步大於美方,除了芬太尼和高通併購案外,中方還承諾要進口更多美國商品,而美方的讓步只是將原來關稅加至25%的決定延期90日執行。但按中方公布的版本,中國擴大進口美國商品,是根據「新一輪改革開放的進程以及國內市場和人民的需要」,並無具體金額承諾,實際上是重複今年5月副總理劉鶴訪美時的承諾,而且中方公告中還有一句:「雙方達成互利雙贏的具體協議是中方對美方採取相關積極行動的基礎和前提」,意味着中方的大規模進口也要看90日談判能達成什麼協議。

習特會的停火協議,只能視為中美為1月1日建交40周年帶給世界的一份小禮物。對中國來說,中美合作固然重要,但解決好國內的諸多結構性問題,如樓價泡沫、產能過剩、債務槓桿、人口老化、民企困難等問題,才是決定中國經濟長遠健康發展的關鍵所在。

■Glossary

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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