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China, US reach agreement on beef, poultry, natural gas

WASHINGTON — Beijing will open its borders to U.S. beef, while cooked Chinese poultry is closer to landing on American supermarket shelves under a U.S.-China trade agreement.

Trump administration officials hailed the deal as a significant advance toward boosting U.S. exports and closing America’s trade gap with the world’s second-largest economy. U.S. trade experts offered a more muted assessment, calling the agreement a modest fulfillment of past assurances made by China.

Among other things, the deal enables U.S. companies to export liquefied natural gas to China. It will also lower long-standing barriers that have affected matters ranging from agriculture to the operation of American financial firms in China.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hailed the agreement, coming on the heels of President Donald Trump’s April meeting with President Xi Jinping, as “a herculean accomplishment.”

“This is more than has been done in the whole history of U.S.-China relations on trade,” Ross told reporters Thursday evening at the White House.

In Beijing, Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told reporters the early results of the agreement showed that economic collaboration between the two sides “couldn’t be closer.”

But trade experts questioned the magnitude of the deal.

“These are modest moves which by themselves will not have much effect on the U.S. economy,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former Treasury Department official.

The beef exports and electronic payments in the agreement have long been promised by China. And the agreement does little to address some key issues of trade friction, such as automobiles or social media. While the Trump administration has touted a surge in U.S. manufacturing, this agreement does little to help that goal.

“The challenge is selling manufactured goods into China — there isn’t anything in this deal to suggest China is going to become more open to U.S.-manufactured exports,” said Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

It remains unclear how far China will go to allow more American exports. Previous administrations have hailed market-opening agreements only to be left disappointed.

“The key in these negotiations is specifics that are enforceable — literally, the devil is in the details,” said Scott Mulhauser, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

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