Liu He
Liu He, China's vice premier, centre, gestures while arriving for a meeting with Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, right, and Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, second left, at the Office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 10, 2019. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Beijing: China announced that Vice-Premier Liu He will travel to Washington to sign the first phase of the trade deal with the US next week, locking in Beijing’s commitment to a ceremony already announced by President Donald Trump.

Liu, who has acted as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s top trade negotiator throughout the tariff conflict, will travel to the US from January 13 to 15 as the head of the delegation, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said on Thursday in Beijing.

He said he has no more information to release about the trade talks, other than that the teams remain in close contact.

The statement is the first Chinese confirmation of the signing, which Trump said would be January 15. Trump has also said he will go to Beijing after the deal is inked to begin negotiations on the second phase.

Under the accord, announced December 13, Trump agreed to suspend plans for new tariffs on Chinese imports and reduced some existing levies, while Beijing agreed to increase agricultural purchases.

The precise terms of the agreement have not been revealed.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said he expects the 86-page document will be publicly released after it is signed.

Chinese delegation

The Chinese delegation will include People’s Bank of China governor Yi Gang, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, vice-minister of finance Liao Min, deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission Ning Jizhe, deputy international trade representative Wang Shouwen, and others, according to people familiar with the arrangements.

Gao declined to comment on the $200 billion imports of goods and services which the US said China has agreed to in the deal.

The move at least temporarily calms fears of an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies, at a time when investors are nervous over conflict in the Middle East and rising oil prices.

Liu will travel with the titles of Politburo member, vice-premier and top trade negotiator, according to Gao. There was no mention of whether he will be designated a special envoy for Xi, a title he held on some previous trips to Washington.