Caixin
Feb 08, 2020 04:52 AM
WORLD

Xi, Trump Reaffirm Phase-One Trade Deal in Face of Epidemic

U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Vice Premier Liu He sign phase-one trade deal Jan. 15 at the White House. Photo: Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Vice Premier Liu He sign phase-one trade deal Jan. 15 at the White House. Photo: Bloomberg

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the phase-one trade deal signed last month despite the deadly coronavirus epidemic in a phone conversation Thursday night.

Xi said that China has full confidence in its capability to prevail over the epidemic and that the long-term trend for China’s stable economic development has not changed.

Xi also said he hoped the U.S. would “calmly evaluate the epidemic and reasonably respond.” The two countries should stay in contact and work together to contain the disease, he said.

The phone call marked the first publicized communication between the two leaders since the outbreak began last month, infecting more than 31,000 people and killing more than 600.

The coronavirus epidemic has raised concerns that China might not be able to make the purchases it promised. Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Chinese officials were hoping the U.S. would agree to some flexibility on the pledges in the deal, citing people familiar with the situation.

While Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency didn’t mention whether Xi discussed the purchase commitment with Trump, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that the two leaders agreed that while the virus may slow down Chinese purchases of U.S. exports, the transactions will get completed by the end of this year.

In a tweet Friday morning, Trump praised China’s response to the virus outbreak and said Xi was leading “a very successful operation.”

Xi said in the phone call that China and the U.S. have maintained communication over the prevention and control of the epidemic and that he appreciates Trump’s positive comments on China’s efforts and is grateful for supplies donated by Americans.

U.S. media reported that Trump also said he plans to visit Beijing at some point but has not provided a timeframe.

On Jan. 29, Trump formed a coronavirus task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Trump was scheduled to meet with the group Thursday at the White House, but the meeting was closed to the press.

Azar said Jan. 31 that China agreed to a visit by a group of U.S. public health specialists as part of a team of international experts to be sent by the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s not clear when the WHO team will make its trip to China.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs is holding a hearing Wednesday on the coronavirus outbreak, in which the committee chairman said the travel bans implemented by the U.S. and other governments are not resolving the public health crisis and have caused economic losses.

The U.S. has implemented travel restrictions and issued federal quarantine orders in response to the outbreak for the first time in about 50 years. Flights from mainland China are being funneled through 11 U.S. airports. Some experts said such travel restrictions can’t insulate the U.S. from the virus but would increase the risk of transmission.

As of Thursday, there were 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and a total of 272 cases in 24 countries outside China.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)

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