By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. and China signed a "phase one" trade deal Wednesday that marks a major milestone in the more than two-year trade war between the world's top two economies.
The agreement was signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He during a White House ceremony attended by droves of government officials and business leaders.
Trump called the initial pact a "momentous step, one that has never been taken before with China" during marathon remarks in the East Room.
“For decades American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufactures and innovators have been hurt by the unfair trade with China,” Trump said, noting in particular what his administration has said is Beijing’s policy of forcing American firms to transfer technological know-how and trade secrets in order to conduct business in China.
“Now our efforts have yielded a transformative deal that will bring tremendous benefits to both countries," he added.
The U.S.-China trade war has rattled global markets on fears it could spark a global slowdown.
At issue for Washington is a lopsided trade imbalance with China — the U.S. had a $378.6 billion trade deficit with China in 2018, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative — as well as concerns over intellectual property theft, including what the Trump administration says is Beijing's policy of forcing American firms to transfer intellectual know-how in order to do business in China.
Trump has imposed wave after wave of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and China has responded in kind.
To date, the U.S. has imposed tariffs on $360 billion on Chinese imports.
Trump maintained U.S. tariffs would remain in place until a final deal with China is reached "because otherwise we have no cards left to negotiate with."