Both the U.S. and Chinese presidents, as they began a tense meeting Saturday, expressed hope about improving relations amid their escalating trade war.

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, sitting across the table from each other on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Osaka, made brief statements but did not answer any questions from a group of reporters.

“China and the United States both benefit from cooperation and lose in a confrontation,” Xi stated. “Cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation.”

Xi added that he wanted to exchange views with Trump “on the fundamental issues concerning the growth of China-U.S. relations so as to set the direction of our relationship.”

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the start of their bilateral meeting at the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

Trump: ‘We want to do something’

Trump, noting his “excellent relationship” with Xi, said “we want to do something that will even it up with respect to trade. I think it’s something that’s very easy to do.”

The U.S. president said that the two countries had been very close to achieving a historic trade agreement and then “something happened where it slipped a little bit.”

Trump added that regarding a fair trade deal, “we’re totally open to it. I know you’re totally open to it,” explaining that negotiations for both countries have been working hard to achieve that.

“I think we can go on to do something that truly will be monumental and great for both countries. And that’s what I look forward to doing.”

Lower expectations

Top U.S. officials, in the days leading up to the meeting, have been skeptical about any immediate breakthrough and played down expectations of that.

Replying to a question from VOA Friday, Trump had said he was not certain that Xi would put a new proposal on the table. He also said he had not committed to avoiding placing additional tariffs on China.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said this week that Trump did not agree to any preconditions for the high-stakes meeting with Xi and is maintaining his threat to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods.

Trump has threatened another $325 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, which would cover just about everything China exports to the United States that is not already covered by the current 25% tariff on $250 billion in Chinese imports.

China has slapped its own tariffs on U.S. products, including those produced by already financially strapped American farmers.

March Short, the chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, said Friday the “best-case scenario” for Saturday’s talks would be a resumption of trade negotiations between the United States and China.

China Shipping Company containers are stacked at the Virginia International’s terminal in Portsmouth, Va., May 10, 2019.

Eleven rounds of talks

Eleven rounds of previous talks have failed to ease U.S. concerns over China’s massive trade surplus and China’s acquisition of U.S. technology.

The latest round of talks broke down in May, when Washington accused Beijing of going back on its pledge to change Chinese laws to enact economic reforms.

Neither the United Sates nor China have indicated they will back down from their previous positions that led to the current stalemate.


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