Trade war truce expected, but expectations low for G-20 meeting between Xi, Trump
Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(HONG KONG) — As leaders of the Group of 20 nations meet in Osaka, Japan, this week, the focus will once again be on a high-stakes meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their first face-to-face meeting since the last G-20 meeting last December — particularly in light of escalating tension between the two countries since trade talks collapsed in early May.
The U.S. and China have been engaged in a year-long tit-for-tat trade war that has affected the global economy, and threatens to drag it down should it escalate further.
After the trade talk collapse in May came finger pointing from both sides. Washington said that China reneged on all their promises at the 11th hour, while Beijing accused their American counterparts of continuously adding additional unrealistic demands, including having the Chinese change their laws in ways that would upend their heavily state-controlled economy, according to the South China Morning Post.
Relations between the two countries have become so frosty that despite both Trump and Xi publicly touting their personal friendship, success in Osaka would simply be a truce allowing room for trade talks to resume in the future.
In recent days, both sides have signaled they would be backing off slightly from their respective demands.
Trump teased forward to his meeting with Xi during a bilateral meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Friday afternoon, but would not set expectations for the outcome except to say that he believes it will be productive.
“We are going to have a meeting with President Xi of China tomorrow, as you’ve probably heard, seems to be a rumor about that and we are indeed. I think it will be productive and who knows, but I think it will be productive. At a minimum it will be productive. We’ll see what comes out of it,” Trump said.
“I think we have a very good chance, we’ll see what happens, ultimately something will happen and it will only be good, good thinks happen,” he continued.
Asked if he’s promised China that he won’t impose any further tariffs, Trump said he had made no such promise.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with China’s lead trade negotiator Vice-Premier Liu He on Monday, agreeing to resume talks ahead of the Osaka summit.
“We were about 90% of the way there, and I think there’s a path to complete this,” Mnuchin said on CNBC Wednesday.
Wang Shouwen, China’s vice-minister of commerce and one of the lead negotiators, implied on Monday that Washington needs to show movement.
“We should meet each other halfway, which means that both sides will need to compromise and make concessions, and not just one side,” he said.
Xi only agreed to meet with Trump in Japan after Washington agreed to delay imposing more tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, the South China Morning Post and Politico reported.
Much has changed since Trump and Xi last met.
The Trump administration is cracking down on Chinese telecom giant Huawei, a cornerstone in Beijing’s plan to dominate the industries of tomorrow, especially the global roll out of 5G telecom technology.
On the same day Trump and Xi were meeting in Argentina in December, Canadian authorities detained Huawei CFO, and the daughter of its founder, Meng Wanzhou, in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities. Meng faces possible extradition to the U.S. on allegations of bank fraud.
China retaliated by arresting two Canadians for suspected espionage, but continued trade talks with the U.S.
In May, as those talks were collapsing, Trump raised tariffs on China with a tweet and later placed Huawei on a blacklist, preventing it from doing business with U.S. companies.
Beijing has also added pressure in recent months on American companies doing business in China, unveiling their own plan to create a blacklist of “unreliable entities,” as well as speaking with American executives about how their companies would face punishment if American companies cut off ties with Chinese companies, according to The New York Times.
In late February, as trade talks collapsed Beijing and Washington, Trump demonstrated that he was more than willing to walk away from a deal when he left North Korea’s Kim Jong Un embarrassed at the table during the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi.
Since May, a potent narrative has been presented by Chinese state media that the trade war went beyond politics and is about the U.S. attempting to thwart China’s rise. Just this week, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, published an op-ed reading, “The Chinese people deeply understand that the U.S. government’s suppression and containment of China is an external challenge that China must bear in its development and growth.”
On Monday, Xi convened a “study session” with the entire 25-member Communist Party Politburo to stress the importance of unity around top party leadership before heading to Osaka.
Trump, for his part, is setting low expectations, telling Fox Business on Wednesday before flying to Japan, “I would do additional tariffs, very substantial additional tariffs; if that doesn’t work if we don’t make a deal.”
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