US, China pledge cooperation on trade agreement despite coronavirus spat

American and Chinese officials agreed to forge ahead with implementing their landmark trade deal despite a bitter spat over China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials from both nations agreed on a Thursday conference call that they were making “good progress” toward setting up the government infrastructure needed to make the phase-one agreement a success, the US Trade Representative’s office said.

“In spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner,” the office said in a statement, adding that the two countries will continue regular meetings required by the pact.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US trade rep Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He also agreed to create a good environment for implementing the deal, China’s commerce ministry said. President Trump signed the agreement in January.

The talks came amid increased tensions between the US and China over the coronavirus crisis. The Trump administration has accused Beijing of trying to cover up the outbreak and said the US has evidence that the virus emerged from a Wuhan lab, though officials are not certain about its origins. The Chinese Communist Party has denied wrongdoing.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro warned this week that concerns about China’s handling of the crisis would overshadow the trade deal, which rolls back some tariffs and requires China to buy more American goods and services.

The coronavirus outbreak slammed China’s economy, causing its gross domestic product to shrink in the first quarter for the first time since at least 1992. The Communist government has officially declared nearly 84,000 coronavirus cases as of Friday morning, the US more than 1.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

With Post wires

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