Trump Says ‘Big Progress’ Made in Trade Talks With China

By Melanie Sun

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 29 that “big progress” was being made with Chinese leader Xi Jinping towards a trade deal between the two countries that may stave off further escalation of the yearlong trade war.

Trump posted around 11 a.m. local time that he had just finished a “long and very good call” with Xi to discuss a possible deal to address the ongoing trade differences between the United States and Communist China.

“If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute,” Trump said, sounding upbeat about the progress.

The in-depth talks come after Xi promised that China would deliver structural changes in their state-controlled economy within the next three months during bilateral talks on Dec. 1 that were held on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina.

Both sides will “immediately begin negotiations on structural changes” that Washington has been demanding for more than a decade, the White House announced shortly after the talks. It added that the structural reforms include ending China’s unfair trade policies and practices with respect to “forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services, and agriculture.”

In Buenos Aires, the United States and China reached a 90-day ceasefire agreement to postpone more tariff hikes and allow for further negotiations after Xi agreed to purchase “a very substantial amount” of American goods, including agricultural, energy, industrial, and other products, in an effort to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China.

In return, Trump agreed to postpone the planned step-up in the tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent that would have commenced on Jan. 1. Trump promised that tariffs would remain at 10 percent through the 90-day negotiation period.

“Both parties agree that they will endeavor to have this transaction completed within the next 90 days,” the White House said. If China and the United States fail to reach an agreement by the end of this period on March 1, the United States will increase its tariffs to 25 percent.

The two nations have been engaged in a tariff trade war for much of 2018 after the Trump administration first imposed nearly $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods to force Beijing to end its unfair practices. The following changes in tariff rates disrupted financial markets around the world as the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods between the world’s two largest economies met with uncertainty.

Trump has long complained about China’s unfair trade practices and blamed previous U.S. leaders for failing to address the matter, which he has said not only cost American jobs but threaten national security. For decades, Beijing has paid little more than lip-service to the commitments it made when gaining access to the World Trade Organization (WTO), leading the Trump administration to change tactics and take a tougher stance on China’s long-running protectionist and trade-distorting policies.

Just days after the trade truce was brokered, Trump warned in a Dec. 4 tweet that both national leaders “want this deal to happen,” but that if a deal doesn’t happen, “I am a tariff man.”

“When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so,” Trump said in the Twitter post. “It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in tariffs.”

China’s state media also reported Xi and Trump spoke on Dec. 29, and quoted Xi as saying that teams from both countries have been working to implement a consensus reached with Trump. After the Dec. 1 ceasefire deal was reached in Argentina, The Epoch Times reported that China’s state media ran scant details on the outcome of the meeting.

Additional reporting by Emel Akan and Reuters.

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