May 8, 2018 / 11:43 AM / 2 months ago

Trump, China's Xi discuss trade ahead of talks next week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed ongoing trade issues on Tuesday, as both sides continue to position themselves amid a heated feud over tariffs between the world’s two largest economies.

FILE PHOTOS: A combination of file photos showing Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) at London's Heathrow Airport, October 19, 2015 and U.S. President Donald Trump posing for a photo in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Lucas Jackson/File Photos

The two leaders spoke after high-level U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing last week failed to reach a consensus, with talks set to resume next week in Washington.

Trump struck a positive tone in announcing the call earlier on Tuesday, calling Xi “my friend” and pledging in a post on Twitter that “good things will happen” on trade.

Chinese state television said Xi told Trump China-U.S. relations were in an important phase.

“I attach great importance to bilateral relations, and cherish the good working relationship with Mr. President,” it quoted Xi as saying.

In a statement after the call, the White House said the U.S. president “affirmed his commitment to ensuring that the trade and investment relationship between the United States and China is balanced and benefits American businesses and workers.”

Chinese state media said Xi told Trump the two countries should strive to find a way to properly resolve trade disputes.

Xi said trade and economic relations had always been the ballast and propeller of U.S.-China relations. He described their talks last week on trade as “frank, efficient and constructive.”

“The two sides’ teams can maintain communication, and strive to find appropriate ways to resolve issues and achieve win-win outcomes,” Xi said.

China’s top economic official, Vice Premier Liu He, is scheduled to visit Washington next week to resume negotiations sparked by the Trump administration’s threat to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese imports.

Beijing has countered with its own planned tariffs on American goods.

The tariff threats have roiled U.S. and other stock markets in recent weeks amid fears that a trade war between the two economic powerhouses will hit global markets.

Trump won the White House in part over his harsh rhetoric on China and trade, and vowing to press Beijing over economic issues and make trade fair for the United States. Since taking office, he has also touted his personal relationship with Xi.

Last week, a seven-member U.S. delegation returned to Washington and briefed Trump on their meeting.

American negotiators, led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, issued a lengthy list of demands, according to people familiar with the talks that the White House later called “frank” discussions. Chinese state media, after the meeting, struck a positive note.

Trump and Xi also discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme during their call, according to both the White House and Chinese state media.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Makini Brice in WASHINGTON; additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish

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