(Adds quotes from China, business groups, and Visa)
By Ayesha Rascoe and Michael Martina
WASHINGTON/BEIJING May 11 The United States and
China will expand trade in beef and chicken and increase access
for financial firms, as part of a plan to reduce the massive
U.S. trade deficit with Beijing, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur
Ross said on Thursday.
The deals are the first tangible results of the 100 days of
trade talks that began last month after U.S. President Donald
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Florida to discuss
cooperation between the world's two largest economies.
The countries have agreed that China will allow U.S. imports
of beef by no later than July 16.
By that same deadline, the United States said it would issue
a proposed rule to allow Chinese cooked poultry to enter U.S.
markets, Ross told reporters at a briefing.
Beijing also agreed to issue guidelines by then to allow
U.S.-owned card payment services "to begin the licensing
process" in a sector where China's UnionPay system has had a
near monopoly. Foreign-owned firms in China will also be able to
provide credit rating services.
The talks with China are latest in a series of actions since
Trump took office in January aimed at remaking U.S.
international trade relations.
Trump had pledged during his presidential campaign that he
would stop trade practices by China and other countries that he
deemed unfair to the United States. His tough talk had fueled
fears of a potential trade war with Beijing.
"This will help us to bring down the deficit for sure," Ross
said. "You watch and you'll see."
Ross said there should be an impact on China's trade surplus
with the United States by the end of the year.
The United States also signalled that it was eager to export
more liquefied natural gas (LNG), saying China could negotiate
any type of contract, including long-term contracts, with U.S.
It is unclear exactly how much these new deals will increase
trade between the two countries.
"We believe that Sino-U.S. economic cooperation is the trend
of the times. ... We will continue to move forward," Chinese
Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a Beijing press briefing
When asked if China-U.S. cooperation over North Korea's
nuclear and missile programs had played a role in the outcomes
of the talks, Zhu said: "Economic issues should not be
Trump said he had told Xi that Beijing would get a better
trade deal if it worked to rein in North Korea, a statement Ross
later rowed back on, saying the president did not intend to
trade U.S. jobs for help with Pyongyang.
"FULL AND PROMPT MARKET ACCESS"
China had conditionally lifted its longstanding import ban
on American beef last year, but few purchases have been made.
The ban was imposed in 2003 due to a case of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in Washington state.
China's Premier Li Keqiang, days after the Xi-Trump summit,
suggested that restoring U.S. beef imports could be linked to a
U.S. opening for Chinese chicken exports.
U.S. credit card operators Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc
have yet to be independently licensed to clear
transactions in China, despite a 2012 WTO ruling mandating that
Beijing open the sector.
Visa said in an emailed statement that it looked forward to
submitting an application for a bank-card clearing institution
license, which, "once granted", would allow it to support
economic development in China.
Mastercard said: "We welcome today's announcement and look
forward to having full and prompt market access in China."
U.S. business groups had wanted the Trump administration to
act against Beijing on market imbalances, but not push the two
countries toward a trade war.
Nonetheless, more vociferous complaints about Chinese market
restrictions by American businesses lobbies have marked a shift
from years past, when many companies eschewed the idea of
forceful action by Washington for fear of retribution by China.
Jacob Parker, vice president of China operations at the
U.S.-China Business Council, said the outcomes addressed "some
of the top concerns" of its members, and that the deadlines
reinforced commitments made during the Xi-Trump meeting that the
talks would yield tangible results.
But he said risks remained that Chinese regulators could
drag out the licensing or approval process in newly opened
Ker Gibbs, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce
in Shanghai, said the deal, while a good beginning, was not a
"Past foot-dragging means we won't celebrate until these
promises are executed," Gibbs said, calling the opening in the
electronic payments market "mainly symbolic".
"This should have been done years ago when it would have
made a difference. At this point the domestic players are well
entrenched so foreign companies will have a hard time entering
the China market," he said.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington; Michael Martina,
Kevin Yao and Matthew Miller in Beijing; and John Ruwitch in
Shanghai; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)