U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He hold the "phase one" trade deal between the United States and China they signed Wednesday in the East Room of the White House. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 15 (UPI) -- After a year and a half of stalemate, tariffs affecting billions of dollars worth of products and failed negotiations, President Donald Trump signed a partial trade agreement with Chinese leaders Wednesday in the first step to what both parties hope will be a full resolution of the 18-month feud.
Trump welcomed Beijing's delegation, led by Vice Premier Liu He, for the signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The "phase one" agreement loosens some U.S. tariffs against China and secures new purchases of American-made items for Beijing.
Liu and Trump took turns signing the documents after weeks of negotiations.
Trump hailed the deal as a step toward a "future of fair and reciprocal trade" and called it a "historic" agreement.
"Together, we are righting the wrongs of the past and delivering a future of economic Justice and security for American workers farmers and families," the president added.
Liu said the pact benefits both sides.
"This is a win-win agreement," he said. "It will bring about stable economic growth, promote world peace and prosperity, and is in the interest of producers, consumers and investors in both countries."
The vice premier also delivered a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"The conclusion of the phase one agreement is good for China, the United States and the whole world," the leader wrote. "It also shows that our two countries have the ability to act on the basis of equality and mutual respect and can work through dialogue and consultation to properly handle and effectively resolve relevant issues."
U.S. markets surged before and after Wednesday's agreement. At one point, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had risen 160 points. By 1:30 p.m. EST, it was up 94 points.
At the ceremony, Trump credited a long list of officials for the deal's success, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, White House adviser Jared Kushner and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
The White House said the deal "achieves progress on a number of critical fronts," including intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange. The administration also called the agreement the first steps to provide "protections for American innovators and inventors."
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, however, said it provides a small return for Americans.
"China is the big winner of Trump's 'phase-one' trade deal with Beijing," he said. "True to form, Trump is getting precious little in return for the significant pain and uncertainty he has imposed on our economy, farmers, and workers.
"The deal won't actually resolve the real issues at the heart of the dispute."
One provision of the deal went into effect last month. The United States refrained from imposing a new set of tariffs on Dec. 15 that would have taxed more than $150 billion worth of Chinese products. Wednesday's agreement also cuts in half additional tariffs for about $110 billion in other items.
Some Chinese taxes on exports to the United States, however, will remain in place -- such as a 25 percent tariff for many assembly components bought by U.S. factories. Trump has said Beijing is paying those taxes, but studies have indicated they are being absorbed by American farmers and businesses.
"While phase one makes incremental progress, it remains to be seen whether it will deliver any meaningful relief for farmers like me," Farmers for Free Trade spokeswoman and wheat farmer Michelle Erickson-Jones said in a statement. "This deal does not end retaliatory tariffs on American farm exports, makes American farmers increasingly reliant on Chinese state-controlled purchases and doesn't address the big structural changes the trade war was predicated on achieving.
"The promises of lofty purchases are encouraging but farmers like me will believe it when we see it. ... In the meantime, the administration should waste no time in returning to the negotiating table and reaching an agreement that ends the trade war for good."