Trump`s fee hikes turned out to be a headwind for China`s economy, which has already slowed, although the damage was less than some forecasters had expected. China`s world exports rose by 0.5% in 2019, despite a drop in U.S. sales, according to Chinese customs data. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently announced that it will launch a new tariff-free cycle for certain Chinese products from October 31, 2019 to January 31, 2020. This is the fifth list of U.S. items released by China; Since September of last year, China has been progressively excluded from some U.S. imports. At the beginning of February this year, an additional 696 U.S. products (including major agricultural and energy products) were exempted from punitive tariffs, which was considered a step in the implementation of the China-U.S. agreement, signed in January. The chapter on intellectual property covers disciplines related to the protection of trade secrets, medicines, patents, piracy, counterfeiting, geographical indications, trademarks and enforcement measures.
China`s commitments under the chapter – particularly those that require it to protect trade secrets through criminal enforcement and other means – appear broad, generally binding (and non-binding) and, in some cases, similar to provisions of other U.S. trade agreements such as the USMCA. Nevertheless, the agreement does not contain explicit details on the need to amend certain Chinese laws and regulations that the United States would have requested in previous phases of the negotiations. On the contrary, in accordance with Article 1.35 of the agreement, the extent to which China plans to modify the measures to implement IP commitments is defined in an “action plan” to be published at a later date. The provision states that within 30 working days of the agreement`s entry into force, China will publish an action plan setting out “the steps China will take to implement its commitments under the [Intellectual Property Chapter] and the effective date of each measure.” It remains to be seen to what extent the agreement will lead to changes in existing laws and regulations in China (and what the consequences will be).