Trump believes US in strong position in trade war, 'comfortable with any outcome' of Xi meeting at G-20

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping leaving a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 9, 2017.
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping leaving a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 9, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump sees the United States as being in a position of strength in its trade dispute with China and would be comfortable no matter how his meeting this weekend with Chinese president Xi Jinping turns out, said a senior administration official on Monday (June 24).

“He’s got an opportunity to see where the Chinese side is since the talks last left off, but the President is quite comfortable with any outcome,” the US official told reporters in a briefing on this weekend’s Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Osaka, Japan.

Mr Trump is expected to meet Mr Xi on the second day of the June 28-29 summit in Osaka, the official said.

“He’s comfortable that we’re in a strong position,” he said, declining to give more details on the meeting as the President’s schedule was still being worked out.

The leaders previously met at the G-20 summit in Argentina in November last year, where they agreed to a trade truce and a suspension of a scheduled tariff hike.

Mr Trump proceeded with the tariff hike in May, citing a lack of progress in the trade talks. He also threatened new tariffs of 25 per cent on an additional US$300 billion (S$406 billion) of Chinese goods, which cover almost all remaining Chinese imports untouched by earlier tranches of tariffs.

The official said that the original purpose of the tariffs had been to address the theft of American intellectual property and the coercion of American companies to transfer their technology and intellectual property as the price of gaining access to the Chinese market.

“That was some of the original intent that China unwisely decided to retaliate against, so the President imposed other tariffs,” he said.

“We’re collecting a lot of money. We see a lot of companies leaving China, and the US economy is stronger than it’s been in many, many decades, so he’s quite comfortable with that position going into this meeting,” he added.

The official said the purpose of the discussions was to rebalance the US-China economic relationship in a way that protects America’s economic prosperity and workers.

A deal would therefore need to include structural changes in China to protect American intellectual property, as well as credible enforcement, he said, adding that the US position was well known by the Chinese.

Said another official: “The President has been quite clear that he needs to see real structural reform in China across a number of sectors.”

Nothing about that desire had changed, the official added.

Mr Trump will meet at least seven other world leaders one-on-one at the summit. They include: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Germany’s

Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian’s President Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Trump and Mr Putin will discuss regional security issues including Iran, Ukraine, Syria and the Middle East, said an official.

He will then fly to Seoul on Saturday afternoon, where he will discuss with South Korean president Moon Jae-in the denuclearisation of North Korea and the US-South Korea alliance. Mr Trump departs for Washington on Sunday.