Pompeo upbeat on positive end to US-China trade talks

Mr Mike Pompeo (on screen), addressing the World Economic Forum via video, and WEF president Borge Brende (on stage) at the annual Davos summit of big business on Tuesday.
Mr Mike Pompeo (on screen), addressing the World Economic Forum via video, and WEF president Borge Brende (on stage) at the annual Davos summit of big business on Tuesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DAVOS • United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced his optimism for a good outcome to upcoming trade talks with China, and said a conflict between the superpowers could be avoided.

Mr Pompeo, speaking on Tuesday by video to the World Economic Forum, was referring to negotiations designed to avert a threat by US President Donald Trump to raise tariffs on US$200 billion (S$272 billion) worth of Chinese imports in March.

Mr Pompeo began by describing China as belligerent towards its neighbours and "embracing totalitarianism" at home, but said the row could be resolved if Beijing were to accept the principles of fair and open trade and protection of intellectual property.

"There are those who say a superpower conflict...is inevitable. We don't see it that way," he said.

Referring to the next round of trade talks, scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, he added: "I am optimistic we will receive them well and we will have a good outcome from those conversations."

His remarks chime in with Mr Trump's comments last weekend that the talks were going well. However, the President denied he was considering lifting the tariffs.

The US-China trade war has roiled world financial markets and contributed to a slowdown in global economic growth. On Monday, China reported its weakest annual growth in nearly three decades, hurt by rising US tariffs, and the International Monetary Fund cited the trade war in downgrading its global 2019 outlook for the second time in three months.

 
 
 
 
 

In a question-and-answer session, Mr Pompeo told the summit in Davos that he expected progress in nuclear talks with North Korea by the end of next month.

Mr Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un late next month, the White House said last Friday.

Mr Pompeo said he believed by the end of next month, "we will have another good marker along the way" with North Korea. He added that the private sector would be an important player in reaching a final deal with North Korea, which is hungry for foreign investment.

He also said talks were needed with Russia to prevent nuclear proliferation, calling for Moscow to change its "outlook and behaviour", and denied Washington had turned isolationist.

"We will need coalitions to build Middle East stability." He added he was hopeful of making progress to end the war in Yemen, and noted that there were ways to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to come together.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'Pompeo upbeat on positive end to US-China trade talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe