No high hopes for Trump-Xi meeting

WASHINGTON/BEIJING • With under three weeks to go before proposed talks between the Chinese and US leaders, expectations for progress towards ending the trade war are low and sources say there has been little preparation for a meeting even as the health of the world economy is at stake.

US President Donald Trump says he wants to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the June 28-29 Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, and will decide on whether to extend tariffs to almost all Chinese imports after that.

Though neither side has confirmed that a meeting will take place, investors worldwide who have seen over a trillion dollars wiped from global markets in the past month by the trade fight will be closely watching any interaction between the two men.

Relations have deteriorated since May when negotiations to end the US-Chinese trade disputes broke down, all but killing off the possibility of an agreement in Japan. "The atmosphere is poisonous," said one senior Beijing-based Western diplomat, referring to China-US ties.

Sources familiar with the matter, including officials and diplomats in Washington and Beijing, say there has been a lack of preparatory work for the meeting, due largely to the increasing acrimony. The trade negotiating teams have not met since talks ended in stalemate on May 10. The White House declined to comment on plans for a Trump-Xi meeting.

Professor Eswar Prasad at Cornell University and a former head of the China department at the International Monetary Fund said expectations from any talks were low. "The best-case outcome from a Trump-Xi meeting, which seems a dubious proposition at this stage, would be an agreement for the two sides to resume talks," said Prof Prasad.

"The prospects for even a temporary and limited ceasefire have dissipated and a prolonged period of trade and broader economic tensions between the two countries seems on the cards."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2019, with the headline 'No high hopes for Trump-Xi meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe