The statement by the China Council for The Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) may be the first sign that Beijing will invoke force majeure, a legal principle that can exempt parties from contractual obligations in case of circumstances beyond their control. The CCPIT declaration at the end of January came as Chinese health authorities reported 7,711 confirmed cases of the infection and 170 deaths. Confirmed cases and deaths have more than tripled since then.
"Some Chinese companies have suffered severe impacts on goods and logistics and may not be able to fulfil their contracts amid the coronavirus," the trade agency said. By opening the door to force majeure claims, China may be calling into question its ability to raise imports from the United States by U.S. $200 billion (1.4 trillion yuan) over the next two years under the Phase One deal.