The United States and China agreed on Saturday to restart trade talks and that Washington would hold off on imposing new tariffs on Chinese exports.
The move, announced after the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, signalled a pause in the trade hostilities between the world’s two largest economies.
The truce offered relief from a nearly year-long dispute in which the countries have slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports, disrupting global supply lines, roiling markets and dragging on global economic growth.
“We’re right back on track and we’ll see what happens,” US President Donald Trump told reporters after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit of leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.
Trump said while he would not lift existing import tariffs, he would refrain from slapping new levies on an additional $300bn worth of Chinese goods – which would have effectively extended tariffs to everything China exports to the US.
“We’re holding back on tariffs and they’re going to buy farm products,” he said at an extensive news conference. “If we make a deal, it will be a very historic event.”
Trump said China would buy more farm products but did not provide specifics.
In a lengthy statement on the talks, China’s foreign ministry said the US would not add new tariffs on Chinese exports and that negotiators of both countries would discuss specific issues.
Xi told Trump he hoped the US could treat Chinese companies fairly, the statement added.
On the issues of sovereignty and respect, China must safeguard its core interests, Xi was cited as saying.
“China is sincere about continuing negotiations with the United States … but negotiations should be equal and show mutual respect,” the foreign ministry quoted Xi as saying.
Trump had threatened to extend existing tariffs to almost all Chinese imports into the US if the meeting brought no progress on wide-ranging US demands for reforms.
The dispute, which includes a feud over China’s telecom giant Huawei, had also fanned fears it could threaten global growth.
The US has pressed its allies to shun Huawei in their fifth generation, or 5G, networks on security grounds, and has also suggested it could be a factor in a trade deal.
The Trump administration has declared Huawei a security threat, effectively banning US companies from doing business with it.
Trump said on Saturday that he had discussed Huawei with Xi and that resolving that issue would come later, but added that US companies would be able to sell components to Huawei.
What else did Trump say?
Trump had his first face-to-face sit-down with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman since the US intelligence community concluded that the crown prince directed the killing of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump, who called bin Salman his “friend”, has long sought to minimise the crown prince’s role in the murder and has been reluctant to criticise the killing of the critic at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.
Trump views the kingdom as the lynchpin of his Middle East strategy to counter Iran. At the news conference on Saturday, Trump was asked by a reporter if he agreed it was “despicable” for a government to kill a journalist.
Trump replied: “Yes, I do. I think it’s horrible. Or anybody else, by the way. And if you look at Saudi Arabia, you see what’s happening, thirteen people, or so, have been prosecuted. Others are being prosecuted. They’ve taken it very, very seriously. And they will continue to.”
- Trump also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a NATO ally whom the US sees as drifting toward Russia’s sphere of influence. With Erdogan, Trump said the leaders will “look at different solutions” to Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. US officials have threatened that purchase would halt the sale of the US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, though Erdogan has called it a done deal. “Turkey has been a friend of ours,” Trump said. He blamed the Obama administration for not agreeing to sell US-made Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, calling the situation a “mess” and “not really Erdogan’s fault.”
‘Don’t meddle with the elections’
- Saturday’s meetings came the day after Trump, with a smirk and a finger point, dryly told another authoritarian leader, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, “Don’t meddle with the election” in their first meeting since the special counsel concluded that Russia extensively interfered with the 2016 campaign.
Trump said he privately raised the issue with Putin, adding, “You know he denies it, totally. How many times can you get someone to deny something?”
Meeting N Korea’s Kim?
Trump said he would like to see North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this weekend at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, where he is due to arrive later on Saturday.
If Trump and Kim were to meet, it would be for the third time in just over a year, and four months since their second summit, in Vietnam, broke down with no progress on US efforts to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Trump made the offer to meet Kim in a comment on Twitter about his trip to South Korea. “While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” he wrote.
Trump later told reporters his offer to Kim was a spur-of-the-moment idea: “I just thought of it this morning.”
- The US president also dismissed former President Jimmy Carter’s swipe at the legitimacy of his presidency as nothing more than a “Democrat talking point” as he took his own digs at Carter. Trump was asked on Saturday about the 94-year-old former US president’s comments alleging that Russian interference in the 2016 election was responsible for putting Trump in the White House. Trump told reporters in Japan that Carter is “a nice man,” but says he was “a terrible president” who has been “trashed within his own party”. Trump was also insisting that he won his 2016 contest against Democrat Hillary Clinton “not because of Russia,” and “not because of anybody but myself”.