WASHINGTON/BEIJING • US President Donald Trump boasted yesterday that the United States' relations with China have taken a "BIG leap forward" following his meeting in Argentina with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain if and when a deal is completed. Level the field!" he said in a series of early morning tweets.
Mr Trump alluded - possibly inadvertently - to the Great Leap Forward, a disastrous campaign which Mao Zedong launched in 1958 to rapidly industrialise China's agrarian economy, forcibly herding villagers into communes. Historians believe the campaign led to the deaths of tens of millions of people in the Great Famine of 1958 to 1962.
Mr Trump, who joined Mr Xi in calling a truce on an intensifying trade war between the two countries, earlier touted a roll-back in Chinese tariffs on US-made cars.
At their dinner meeting in Buenos Aires last Saturday, the two leaders agreed to suspend any new tariffs and give negotiators 90 days to strike a deal.
"My meeting in Argentina with President Xi of China was an extraordinary one. Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!" Mr Trump said.
"Farmers will be a very BIG and FAST beneficiary of our deal with China. They intend to start purchasing agricultural product immediately. We make the finest and cleanest product in the World, and that is what China wants. Farmers, I LOVE YOU!" he said.
Mr Trump went on to praise what he said was his "very strong and personal relationship" with Mr Xi.
Contrasting Chinese, US statements
The White House said Chinese President Xi Jinping remarked he was open to approving the Qualcomm-NXP deal should it again be presented to him. Senior Chinese officials did not mention this deal in a news conference. In July, Qualcomm - the world's biggest smartphone-chip maker - walked away from a US$44 billion (S$60 billion) deal to buy NXP after failing to secure Chinese regulatory approval.
CHINESE STRUCTURAL ECONOMIC CHANGES
The White House said President Donald Trump and Mr Xi agreed to immediately begin negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cybertheft, services and agriculture.
The Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, was less specific, saying China will import more products, based on market demand, from the US in efforts to gradually ease imbalances in two-way trade. He added that the two also agreed to open markets to each other, and that China will work to gradually resolve US concerns in the process of further opening-up.
90-DAY TIMEFRAME FOR TALKS
The White House said talks would take place to resolve within the next 90 days specific US complaints like forced technology transfer, or else existing 10 per cent tariffs would go up to 25 per cent.
They had been scheduled to increase to 25 per cent on Jan 1 but were postponed as part of the agreement.
Mr Wang did not mention this timeframe, though the Chinese state media has. Vice-Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen told reporters that China and the US would step up talks to remove the existing 25 per cent tariffs (on some other products), but gave no timeframe.
CHINESE PURCHASES OF U.S. GOODS
The White House said China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other products from the US.
It also said China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural products from US farmers immediately. China has made no direct mention of specific goods it will start to buy nor given any timeframe for when it may start.
"He and I are the only two people that can bring about massive and very positive change, on trade and far beyond, between our two great Nations. A solution for North Korea is a great thing for China and ALL!"
Tweeting on Sunday night, Mr Trump said: "China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the US. Currently the tariff is 40%."
He gave no details.
Chinese regulators did not respond to requests for comment on what would be a potential boon for automakers like Tesla and BMW which manufacture in the US for export to China.
Neither country had mentioned auto tariffs in their official read-outs of the Trump-Xi meeting.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated comments from the government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, who said last Saturday that the ultimate goal was the lifting of all tariffs.
"The consensus reached by the leaders of our two countries is to halt the imposition of new tariffs and, at the same time, the two sides' leaders instructed the economics teams of both sides to intensify talks towards the removal of all tariffs that have been imposed," Mr Geng told a daily news briefing.
Still, analysts cautioned that the truce may have only bought some time for more wrangling over deeply divisive trade and policy issues.
"It's 90 days. It's nothing and it doesn't really make any difference. People have already started to reconsider their sourcing arrangements," said Mr Larry Sloven, who has been sourcing and manufacturing in China for three decades. "Nobody wants to live in a false reality."
There was also caution from the US business community.
Mr William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said the outcome of the meeting was "as good as we could have expected", considering the complex issues involved.
A senior official at Chinese energy giant CNOOC said China was not likely to increase energy and industrial product purchases from the US by a significant amount in 90 days, unless there are mandatory instructions from the government forcing companies to buy.
"Trump's policy has been so unpredictable that Chinese companies are being very cautious on buying US commodities with or without tariffs," the official added.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
SEE EDITORIAL: Trade war ceasefire boosts regional bourses