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More haste, less speed will help get 'phase one' deal over the line: China Daily editorial

China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-22 20:45

The prospect of a continuing trade war between China and the United States has driven the International Monetary Fund to lower its global growth forecast for 2019 to 3 percent, a level last seen only during the international financial crisis a decade back.

Despite all the US president's praises of his economic accomplishments, the IMF has forecast his country's economic growth will drop to 2.1 percent next year. From US consumers to businesses, pessimism keeps growing that the trade war will wreak further havoc on them.

China is certainly not unbruised. For all the talk about resilience and the potential of the economy, the downward pressure is having an effect, on the manufacturing sector in particular. Everything may remain under control and within a "reasonable range". But trade figures and consumer prices show those are hard-won achievements.

US President Donald Trump claims China has to make a deal because its supply chain is "going down the tubes". But the evident truth is both economies are bleeding.

If the US economy was unhurt, the White House would have insisted on harvesting what it had sought - a comprehensive deal that was entirely in its favor, or no deal at all.

It took a step back. Now it's happy to trumpet a "phase one" agreement. Those drawing up the text for this will need to be careful, as a lot is now riding on it.

Papering the deal under discussion, in a way that passes muster from both sides, in time for a photo op of the two leaders inking it at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Santiago, Chile, on Nov 16 and 17 would surely be wonderful.

But considering the course-setting role of this consensus, as well as the wide divergences that remain over some of the outstanding issues, "it doesn't have to be in November", as US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the Fox Business Network.

Indeed, better late than never. And a proper deal on which both sides see eye to eye makes better sense than a hastily struck, yet porous one.

For a fair and feasible solution to the lose-lose scenario of their trade war, the "phase one" agreement needs to establish a pattern of equal-footed engagement between the two countries that seeks to address the concerns of both.

Judging from negotiations so far, aside from differences over approaches, the two parties remain widely apart on some fundamental issues. If convergence on these divergences is the premise for ending the trade war, there may be no end in sight.

But as the Chinese people are accustomed to being told when something gets stuck: "Take a step back, and enjoy the vastness of the sea and the boundlessness of the sky." That is advice the US should heed as well, for trees bear fruit in the fullness of time.

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