Trump, meet­ing China’s Xi, voices hope for progress on trade dis­pute

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) - U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump told Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping yes­ter­day he hoped they would achieve “some­thing great” on trade for both coun­tries as they opened a high-stakes sum­mit aimed at de­fus­ing a dam­ag­ing tar­iffs war be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing.

With the United States and China locked in an eco­nomic dis­pute that has un­nerved global fi­nan­cial mar­kets and weighed on the world econ­omy, Trump and Xi sat down with their aides for a work­ing din­ner at the end of a two-day gath­er­ing of world lead­ers in Buenos Aires.

Their closely watched meet­ing came shortly af­ter the Group of 20 in­dus­tri­alised na­tions backed an over­haul of the global body that reg­u­lates in­ter­na­tional trade dis­putes, mark­ing a vic­tory for Trump, a sharp critic of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Trump struck a pos­i­tive note as he sat across from Xi, de­spite the U.S. pres­i­dent’s ear­lier threats to im­pose new tar­iffs on Chi­nese im­ports.

“We’ll be dis­cussing trade and I think at some point we are go­ing to end up do­ing some­thing great for China and great for the United States,” Trump said when a small pool of re­porters was briefly al­lowed into the room.

He sug­gested that the “in­cred­i­ble re­la­tion­ship” he and Xi had es­tab­lished would be “the very pri­mary rea­son” they could make progress on trade, though he of­fered no specifics on how they might re­solve the main is­sue di­vid­ing their coun­tries.

Xi told Trump that only through co­op­er­a­tion could the United States and China serve the in­ter­est of peace and pros­per­ity. The world’s two big­gest economies have also in­creas­ingly been at odds over se­cu­rity in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

At the same time, Trump again raised with Xi his con­cern about the syn­thetic opi­oid fen­tanyl be­ing sent from China to the United States, urg­ing the Chi­nese leader to place it in a “re­stricted cat­e­gory” of drugs that would crim­i­nalise it.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, the lead­ers of all the world’s top economies called for re­forms to the cri­sis-stricken World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion in a fi­nal state­ment from their sum­mit.

Of­fi­cials ex­pressed re­lief that agree­ment on the sum­mit com­mu­nique was reached af­ter ne­go­tia­tors worked through the night to over­come dif­fer­ences over lan­guage on cli­mate change.

The fi­nal text recog­nised trade as an im­por­tant en­gine of global growth but made only a pass­ing ref­er­ence to “the cur­rent trade is­sues,” af­ter the U.S. del­e­ga­tion won a bat­tle to keep any men­tion of pro­tec­tion­ism out of the state­ment.

In ad­di­tion to tar­iffs on Chi­nese goods, Trump has im­posed tar­iffs on steel and alu­minums im­ports into the United States this year. Nu­mer­ous coun­tries have filed lit­i­ga­tion at the WTO to con­test the levies.

The United States is un­happy with what it says is the WTO’s fail­ure to hold Bei­jing to ac­count for not open­ing up its econ­omy as en­vi­sioned when China joined the body in 2001. The Euro­pean Union is also push­ing for sweep­ing changes to how the WTO op­er­ates.

“Not­with­stand­ing our dif­fer­ences, we have been able to agree a path for­ward at the G20,” French Pres­i­dent Emanuel Macron told a news con­fer­ence. “The United States has en­dorsed a clear mul­ti­lat­er­al­ist text.”

G20 del­e­gates said ne­go­ti­a­tions on the fi­nal sum­mit state­ment pro­ceeded more smoothly than at a meet­ing of Asian lead­ers two weeks ago, where dis­agree­ments on pro­tec­tion­ism and un­fair trad­ing prac­tices pre­vented a con­sen­sus.

Euro­pean of­fi­cials said a ref­er­ence to refugees and mi­gra­tion - a sen­si­tive is­sue for Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was ex­cised to en­sure con­sen­sus.

On cli­mate change, the United States once again marked its dif­fer­ences with the rest of the G20 by re­it­er­at­ing in the state­ment its de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris Agree­ment and its com­mit­ment to us­ing all kinds of en­ergy sources.

The other mem­bers of the group reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment the Paris deal and tackle cli­mate change, tak­ing into ac­count their na­tional cir­cum­stances and rel­a­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In­debted In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Chris­tine La­garde said high lev­els of debt ac­cu­mu­lated by emerg­ing mar­ket na­tions was a press­ing con­cern.

“There is an ur­gent need to de-es­ca­late trade ten­sions, re­verse re­cent tar­iff in­creases, and mod­ernise the rules­based mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem,” she said.

U.S. of­fi­cials said a call by G20 lead­ers for the IMF and World Bank to im­prove mon­i­tor­ing debt lev­els was aimed at en­sur­ing that de­vel­op­ing economies did not be­come too heav­ily in­debted to China in re­turn for in­fra­struc­ture projects.

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