'We're right back on track', says Trump as US, China restart trade talks after high-stakes meeting

Representatives of the US and China at the meeting between US President Donald Trump (third from left) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (right) at the G-20 Summit. PHOTO: REUTERS

OSAKA - US President Donald Trump said on Saturday (June 29) he had an excellent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that negotiations with China are continuing.

"We are right back on track" with China, he added.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that the US will not levy new tariffs on Chinese exports, following talks between the two countries' leaders.

The two countries have agreed to restart trade talks and will have discussions on specific issues, Xinhua said.

Earlier, Mr Trump said he anticipated a "monumental" trade deal with Mr Xi, in remarks to open their high-stakes talks that could either calm frictions or escalate an ongoing trade war.

"We've had an excellent relationship, but we want to do something that will even it up with respect to trade," Mr Trump said, as he reminisced about his state visit to Beijing in November 2017 and hailed the Chinese culture as "incredible".

"I think it's something that's actually very easy to do," he said in remarks before reporters were asked to leave the room as they began the closed-door session.

"I actually think that we were very close, and then something happened where it slipped a little bit, and now we're getting a little bit closer. But it would be historic if we could do a fair trade deal. We're totally open to it, and I know you're totally open to it."

He was speaking after Mr Xi opened the meeting by referencing the "ping-pong diplomacy" of the 1970s that opened the doors to formal diplomatic ties between their nations.

Japan, too, had a role to play then - as Chinese and American athletes had friendly interactions in the city of Nagoya, the Chinese leader said. "The small ball played a big role in moving world events."

But one tenet remains unchanged amid the enormous changes over the past 40 years, Mr Xi said, and that is the fact that "China and the United States both benefit from cooperation, and lose in a confrontation. Cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation."

However, negotiations should be based on equality and mutual respect and address each other's legitimate concerns, Mr Xi stressed. He called on the US to treat Chinese enterprises and students fairly to allow normal corporate cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

Their meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, happened on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders' pow-wow in Osaka.

Mr Trump is scheduled to hold a news conference at 3.25pm in Osaka (2.25pm Singapore time), where he will make a statement on his meeting with Mr Xi.

Their previous talks in Buenos Aires last year, also on the margins of the G-20, led to a temporary truce in their tit-for-tat tariffs.

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"Today, I'm prepared to exchange views with you on the fundamental issues concerning the growth of China-US relations, so as to set the direction for our relationship in the period to come and to advance the China-US relationship based on coordination, cooperation, and stability," Mr Xi said on Saturday.

Mr Trump said in reply: "I think this can be a very productive meeting, and I think we can go on to do something that truly will be monumental and great for both countries."

He ignored shouted questions from the travelling US media pool on such issues as Huawei and the possible extradition of its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou from Canada, but had said earlier on Saturday that Huawei and trade are among the issues on the table.

"We'll be discussing a lot things. I was with (Mr Xi) last night. A lot was accomplished, actually, last night. The relationship is very good with China," Mr Trump said in response to a question at the outset of a bilateral meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

"As to whether or not we can make a deal, time will tell."

Experts have said the most likely outcome would be a temporary truce and a pledge to keep talking. Mr Trump has threatened to levy even heavier tariffs on China if their talks fall through.

Despite the cordial mood on Saturday, the two leaders had made sideswipes and hurled potshots at each other during the G-20 summit, with Mr Xi taking aim at Washington's "bullying" in a meeting with African leaders on Friday.

The two leaders also made pointed comments on the future of digital governance as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat in between them in a session to launch the "Osaka Track" by which leaders pledge to formulate rules for a digital age to enable the secure flow of data.

Mr Xi, without pointing fingers, called for a "fair, just and non-discriminatory market environment, rather than developing behind closed doors and artificially interfering in the market".

The US has put Chinese technology giant Huawei and several other Chinese firms on an export blacklist over national security concerns, and is actively lobbying its American allies to shun Chinese technology.

Mr Trump then fired back by stressing resilience and security of 5G networks, adding that the US is against any policies that "restrict digital trade flows and violate privacy and intellectual property protections".

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