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China, U.S. Make Breakthrough on Tech Tariffs, U.S. Says

Obama talks trade in China 1:19

For the first time since 1996, China and the U.S. have reached an agreement on trade tariffs for information technology products like some medical devices, the U.S. trade representative said Tuesday.

The breakthrough was announced at a news briefing as President Barack Obama is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Beijing. Obama was quoted in an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua on Monday as saying one of his goals was to push China on the importance of "free and fair" trade.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman called the deal "encouraging news for the U.S.-China relationship," noting that it would be "the first major tariff-cutting agreement in the [World Trade Organization] in 17 years."

Froman said he hoped the agreement would also lead to progress in negotiations in Switzerland on a protocol called the Information Technology Agreement, which is intended to eliminate duties on some technology products. The eventual effect, U.S. officials said, could be to significantly lower costs to consumers.

Another marquee trade goal for Obama — the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, an 11-country agreement that doesn't include China — remained uncompleted, but "we narrowed many of the gaps," Froman said.

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— M. Alex Johnson and Kristin Donnelly