Xi to meet Trump next month: Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) will be meeting US President Donald Trump in April.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) will be meeting US President Donald Trump in April.PHOTO: REUTERS

Top on list for China likely to be to reduce intensity of any confrontation over trade

China has confirmed that President Xi Jinping will be meeting his US counterpart, Mr Donald Trump, early next month at a time of uncertainty for relations between the world's two largest economies.

Top on the agenda for the Chinese would likely be to reduce the intensity of any confrontation over trade that might occur, said Professor Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre for American Studies at Renmin University.

The announcement of the summit on April 6-7, which both sides earlier said was under preparation, came as US media reported that the Trump administration was likely to reject China's bid for market economy status in a review as early as this week. This would mean Chinese goods would be eligible for higher US tariffs, Bloomberg news agency reported The Wall Street Journal as saying.

Mr Trump had, during his presidential campaign, accused the Chinese of "raping" the United States with its unfair trade practices and being a currency manipulator. He also threatened to impose heavy tariffs on Chinese goods.

At a regular press briefing yesterday where he announced Mr Xi's US visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called on both sides to work together to enlarge mutual interests and not quibble over who gets what.

The interests of both countries are closely intertwined, he added, in a reply to a question on trade friction.

Mr Xi will meet Mr Trump at his Florida resort Mar-a-Largo after a short visit to Finland.

Other major issues likely to come up at the summit are North Korea's nuclear programme, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Over North Korea, Mr Trump has accused the Chinese of not doing enough to rein in its close ally and neighbour.

The Chinese, for their part, oppose the deployment of an American advanced missile defence system in South Korea to defend the South against Pyongyang, saying it undermines their security interest.

Analysts have said that Beijing was the more active of the two sides in pushing for an early meeting between the two leaders.

Prof Shi said that China hopes to moderate any possible US move against it on trade and to achieve a better outlook for bilateral ties through a relatively early high-level meeting.

He warned, however, that there should not be high expectation of major breakthroughs at this summit. This is because "neither side will make concessions on major disputes", he said.

The success of the meeting is important to both leaders in terms of their domestic needs, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Xi to meet Trump next month: Beijing'. Print Edition | Subscribe