Coronavirus May Delay Hard-Fought U.S. Trade Wins in China

Coronavirus May Delay Hard-Fought U.S. Trade Wins in China

By Ana Swanson NYTIMES

The spread of the virus is likely to slow China’s progress in meeting the commitments it agreed to last month as part of the initial trade deal with the United States.

WASHINGTON — The rapidly spreading coronavirus could claim one more victim: the United States-China trade deal.

The virus, which has killed more than 360 people and sickened thousands, is taking a heavy toll on China’s economy by halting factory work, grounding flights and disrupting supply chains. It is also likely to slow China’s progress in meeting the commitments it agreed to as part of the initial trade deal that the Trump administration signed with Chinese officials last month.

Under the terms of the agreement, China has pledged to purchase over the next two years an additional $200 billion of American goods, including soybeans, machinery and energy products. In order to reach those lofty sums, Chinese companies would soon need to begin purchasing large amounts of American products.

The Chinese government is also supposed to act quickly to open its markets for American agricultural and financial firms, making major reforms to those sectors within months.

But with factories and stores throughout China shuttered and government officials focused on containing the virus, Beijing will have less capacity to meet President Trump’s terms, analysts say.

“It could be problematic, particularly for manufacturers,” said Mary E. Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

She pointed to one example: Grounded flights and less tourism will weigh on Chinese airlines, potentially reducing their purchases of new American aircraft this year.

“How is the U.S. going to handle this? We don’t really know,” she said.

Privately, some Trump administration officials say that China may use the virus as an excuse to delay meeting its commitments, in hopes that Mr. Trump will ultimately be voted out of office this year.

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