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China, US agree to halt new tariffs

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Two nations will attempt to reach trade agreement within 90 days

BUENOS AIRES: China and the US have agreed to halt additional tariffs as both nations engage in new trade negotiations with the goal of reaching an agreement within 90 days, the White House said on Saturday.

This came after President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held high-stakes talks in Argentina.

Mr Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) of Chinese goods to 25 per cent on Jan 1 as previously announced, while Beijing agreed to buy an unspecified but "very substantial" amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other products, the White House said in a statement.

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China "is open to approving the previously unapproved" deal for US company Qualcomm to acquire Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors "should it again be presented".

In July, Qualcomm - the world's biggest smartphone chip-maker - walked away from a US$44 billion deal to buy NXP Semiconductors after failing to secure Chinese regulatory approval, becoming a high-profile victim of the Sino-US trade dispute.

As part of the deal, China also agreed to start purchasing agricultural products from US farmers immediately, the White House said.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Mr Trump hailed his agreement with Mr Xi.

"It's an incredible deal," Mr Trump said. "What I'd be doing is holding back on tariffs. China will be opening up. China will be getting rid of tariffs."

He said under the deal China would buy a "tremendous amount of agricultural and other product" from the US.

"It'll have an incredibly positive impact on farming."

US companies and consumers are bearing part of the cost of the US tariffs on China by paying higher prices for goods, and many companies have increased prices of imported goods.

At the same time, US farmers have been hurt by reduced Chinese imports of soya beans and other products.

The White House said if agreement on trade issues including technology transfer, intellectual property, non-tariff barriers, cybertheft and agriculture has not been reached with China in 90 days, both parties agree that the 10 per cent tariffs will be raised to 25 per cent.

Mr Trump imposed 10 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods in September.

China responded by imposing its own tariffs. Mr Trump has also threatened to put tariffs on another US$267 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Mr Xi also agreed to designate the drug fentanyl as a controlled substance, the White House said.

For more than a year, Mr Trump has raised concerns about the synthetic opioid being sent from China to the US, which is facing an epidemic of opioid-related deaths.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is attending the meeting, said he hopes the meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi will enable more constructive steps to be taken and build upon to improve US-China ties.

"It doesn't mean all the problems will be solved tonight, but some constructive directions can be pointed (towards), and further steps hopefully later on can be taken," Mr Lee told Singapore media in an interview ahead of the meeting on Saturday. - REUTERS, THE STRAITS TIMES

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