At G20, Trump meets Ger­man, Chi­nese lead­ers

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY MARK LAN­DLER New York Times BUENOS AIRES, AR­GENTINA

HE HAS THREAT­ENED BOTH COUN­TRIES WITH TRADE WARS OVER WHAT HE CALLS THEIR UN­FAIR COM­MER­CIAL PRAC­TICES.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump neared the end of an at­ten­u­ated visit to the Group of 20 sum­mit here Sat­ur­day, sit­ting down with the lead­ers of China and Ger­many, two coun­tries he has threat­ened with trade wars over what he calls their un­fair com­mer­cial prac­tices.

“We have a tremen­dous trade im­bal­ance, but we’re go­ing to get that straight­ened out,” Trump said be­fore a meet­ing with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel of Ger­many. “We all un­der­stand each other.”

Merkel said the two lead­ers would also dis­cuss Ukraine, where a clash be­tween Rus­sian and Ukrainian ships last week caused ten­sions to flare be­tween the two neigh­bors. It was cited by Trump as the rea­son he can­celed a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at the meet­ing in Buenos Aires.

Later Sat­ur­day, Trump was sched­uled to have din­ner with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping of China to dis­cuss ways to avoid a new round of tar­iffs that some an­a­lysts fear could pro­voke a full-fledged eco­nomic Cold War be­tween the world’s two largest economies.

“We'll be talk­ing about a thing called trade,” Trump told re­porters.

“It’s a very im­por­tant meet­ing.”

China is seek­ing to pre­vent Trump from fol­low­ing through on a plan to raise tar­iffs on $250 bil­lion in Chi­nese goods to 25 per­cent, from 10 per­cent, on Jan. 1. In re­turn, U.S. of­fi­cials said, the Chi­nese were likely to of­fer to in­crease their pur­chases of U.S. soy­beans and nat­u­ral gas.

Nei­ther a dra­matic break­through nor an ac­ri­mo­nious break­down was ex­pected at the din­ner. The most likely out­come, of­fi­cials said, was an agree­ment to keep talk­ing – a truce not un­like the one that Trump agreed to re­cently with the Eu­ro­pean Union.

Trump’s sin­gle-minded fo­cus on trade with Ger­many has put Merkel in an awk­ward spot be­cause Ger­many, as a mem­ber of the Eu­ro­pean Union, can­not ne­go­ti­ate sep­a­rately on trade is­sues with the United States. Re­gard­less, the pres­i­dent in­sisted he was mak­ing progress with Ger­many and other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries.

Trump said he can­celed a news con­fer­ence planned for Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon out of def­er­ence to the fam­ily of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who died a day ear­lier in Hous­ton.

“The fact that we lost a pres­i­dent who truly was a won­der­ful per­son, a won­der­ful man, a great man – it re­ally puts a damper on it, to be hon­est with you,” Trump said.

He turned to Merkel and asked her to share a rec­ol­lec­tion of a visit she made to the White House with then-chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl, when Bush was pres­i­dent. She re­ferred to him as “one of the fa­thers of the Ger­man uni­fi­ca­tion,” and said,

“we will never for­get that.”

Even be­fore Bush’s death, the meet­ing was shad­owed by Trump’s le­gal trou­bles back home – his for­mer per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress about his deal­ings with Rus­sia on be­half of Trump – and by his trun­cated sched­ule while in Buenos Aires.

This was the kind of diplo­matic con­clave at which Bush, a glo­be­trot­ting for­eign-pol­icy pres­i­dent, would have thrived.

Trump’s less com­fort­able ex­pe­ri­ence here at­tested to how the Amer­i­can role in the world has changed dur­ing the

Trump pres­i­dency.

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